By Elizabeth F. McNamara
While the 2018 East Greenwich Memorial Day Parade featured many regular participants, including the Kentish Guard, the Varnum Continentals and the EGHS Avenger Band, the EG police and fire honor guards did not march Monday.
Firefighter union president Bill Perry (Local 2238) said his union decided not to march in the parade but instead gathered with family members outside Station One to watch the parade.
“We support the veterans, we support Memorial Day, we support the town and its citizens, but we just can’t support the Town Council and their continuous retaliation against the firefighters and, ultimately, can’t stand behind them,” Perry said Tuesday.
Town Manager Gayle Corrigan has targeted firefighter overtime as a primary cause for town budget woes and fired popular former Fire Chief Russell McGillivray late last year. Recently, the Town Council hired as interim deputy chief former Fire Chief Peter Henrikson, who received a 35-1 vote of no confidence shortly before he retired in 2013. The town has also gone to court to find out whether or not they can move the firefighters into a 3-platoon, 56-hour work week without negotiating with the union and the Town Council voted to approve such a change earlier this month.
The police department has not been as scrutinized as the fire department, but Corrigan’s budget for fiscal year 2019 calls for a reduction in the number of detectives through attrition from four to two and for not filling the animal control officer position recently vacated.
“We left the decision up to individual members on whether they wanted to participate,” Chris Rafferty, police union (IBPO Local 472) vice president, said Tuesday. “The EGPD IBPO Local 472 supports every veteran, active military member and all first responders.”
But he added that the union is concerned about recent school budget cuts and reductions in the proposed police budget.
“Residents and taxpayers should be concerned they’re not getting what they have had and expected for years from the town,” Rafferty said.
Two members of the Town Council – President Sue Cienki and Councilman Mark Schwager – did march in the parade, as did six members of the School Committee – Chair Carolyn Mark, Vice Chair Mary Ellen Winters, and members Michael Fain, Yan Sun, Matt Plain and Lori McEwen. Police Chief Stephen Brown and Deputy Chief Stanley “Skip” Cirella marched, as did Interim Fire Chief Kevin Robinson.
Town Councilors Sean Todd, Andy Deutsch and Nino Granatiero missed the parade, as did School Committee member Jeff Dronzek. Town Manager Corrigan and fire Deputy Chief Henrikson also did not march in the parade.
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