Schwager: Town Is Not Bankrupt

by | Dec 30, 2018

Above: Acting Fire Chief Tom Mears with Town Council President Mark Schwager at a meeting in December. The town has posted the job for permanent fire chief for the first time in the nearly 14 months since former Town Manager Gayle Corrigan fired the previous chief.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town officials are still sifting through the financial records left behind by departed Town Manager Gayle Corrigan and Finance Director Linda Dykeman, but Town Council President Mark Schwager last week was willing to commit to one thing: East Greenwich is not bankrupt.

“The town is very capable of meeting its financial obligations,” he said last week. “Bankruptcy is when a town cannot do that.”

Schwager’s words contrast with what former council President Sue Cienki said in an email to EG News days after the Nov. 6 election. It that email, Cienki wrote, “The town is bankrupt.” Her letter detailed a number of financial obligations facing the town (including long-term pension obligations) but did not offer bankruptcy evidence.

Schwager said Thursday acting Town Manager Joe Duarte and consultant Mike D’Amico were working to have updates on the town’s finances in time for a meeting Monday, Jan. 14 (the date has changed since this story originally posted). The town has not released financial information on fiscal year 2018 (which ended June 30) since the third-quarter report released in April. That report predicted the town would have a $1 million deficit.

“We’re going to present the unaudited numbers to the town,” said Schwager. “The consultant will present the numbers and address the issue of the town’s financial standing.”

Schwager said residents will be welcome to ask questions at the Thursday meeting.

He said it was taking a little longer than they had hoped to present the numbers because of the December holidays – many employees take vacation days this time of year. At the same time, Schwager praised employees for working hard to pull together information for consultant D’Amico, who was hired Dec. 18 and started the next day.

Officials met with the state auditor general last week and got an extension until Feb. 28 on the 2018 audit. Schwager said they hoped to finish before that.

“We’re still spending a fair amount of personnel time addressing 2018. We need to move on to 2019 and 2020,” he said.

In general, he said, there have been no major surprises. The school budget is still be reviewed to see how much of their surplus had to be used to balance the 2018 books.

The Town Council and School Committee are meeting on Monday, Jan. 14 in joint session to discuss budget issues. In particular, the council is expected to respond to the School Committee’s request for an additional $700,000 in funding for the current 2019 fiscal year. The two panels met Dec. 10, at which time the council said it needed to have a better understanding of the town’s financial position before it could respond to the $700,000 request. (Since the Nov. 6 election ushered in four new council members, the town lost its finance director and fired the town manager.)

In other news, the town has posted the fire chief position after more than a year of a succession of acting fire chiefs to fill the role. The job is currently being filled by EGFD veteran Tom Mears. Applications are due Jan. 11 and manager Duarte said he hoped they would have a new chief by early February. The ad hoc hiring committee consists of Duarte, North Kingstown Fire Chief Scott Kettelle, and town Personnel Board member Vincent Ragosta.


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12 Comments

  1. Donald Briggs

    This claim of false bankruptcy is a new trick in the Republican playbook. Claim bankruptcy, plant fear, reduce benefits and pensions and money for schools and public safety. Republicans win. You can follow it around the country and Flanders practically said outright that that was his plan for EG a few years ago. Hence the setting up his crony, Corrigan, to lie and cook the books. Thankfully, we did not make him our senator.

    Reply
    • Ann

      Mr. Briggs – You display your ignorance when you write such comments. I assure you that “Mr.” Flanders never expressed a desire for bankruptcy for East Greenwich in all of our 30+ years living here. The law in Rhode Island states that only the Governor can appoint a Receiver to declare a town bankrupt. This law was passed by our General Assembly. Please educate yourself. Also, pray tell, are you a resident of my fine town??? If not, why all the interest?

      Reply
  2. Donald Briggs

    Mr: Flanders desire to play games with EG’s finances and his comments insinuating this have been well documented in the news, as you well know. Every word I said is the truth. As for where I live, that is none of your damn business now is it?

    Reply
    • Ann

      I’m sorry you have trouble understanding municipal economics, sir, especially that of MY town of East Greenwich. I’m also sorry that my comments caused you to resort to expletives. As for Mr. Flanders comments, I have always found them to be informative and well-reasoned, as befitting a former Justice of the RI Supreme Court and Governor-appointed receiver for the city of Central Falls. Might you be as well-credentialed? Oh, I forgot – it’s none of my —- business!

      Reply
  3. Donald Briggs

    And what makes you think I don’t live here? I NEVER said that. Plus Flander’s “credentials” show him to be doing exactly what I said. Deliberately trying to create fake “bankruptcies”so he can destroy unions and take away benefits. The town dodged a bullet there getting rid of his puppets.

    Reply
    • Ann

      Mr. Briggs – You must broaden your intellectual horizons and start reading legitimate publications. RI Future? EG News? Give me a break. I’ll talk to you after you’ve read the Wall St. Journal or Washington Post. This will probably not be published, but I’m bored with your ignorance anyway.

      Reply
    • Ann

      Dear Donald – You would be wise to quote reputable news sources, instead of Bob Plain’s personal vendetta rag, RI Future. I, myself, prefer the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Haha, RI Future!

      Reply
  4. Donald Briggs

    I get facts where I find them and there are actual quotes from Flanders insinuating that bankruptcy is good for municipalities. I suggest you take your own arrogant advice and educate yourself.

    Reply
    • Ann

      Bankruptcy IS good for those municipalities like Central Falls who are in dire straits and risk not being able to pay retirees and pensioners anything at all. Why do you think our legislature passed such a law? Btw, as an EG resident and wife of Judge Flanders, I think I am in a much better position to comment on his words and actions…don’t you, Mr. Briggs???

      Reply
  5. Donald Briggs

    Ah, in your extremely biased position, you’d best remain mute! Now you have zero credibility in my estimation. Who could expect truth from the wife of a slippery politician? LOL.

    Reply
    • Ann

      “Slippery politician???” Hahaha!!! That’s the first time he’s been called that! I much prefer legal scholar and civic-minded citizen. Where do you live, Donald Briggs, and why are so interested in East Greenwich??? Why don’t you try to contribute something to our society besides commenting on gossip sites? I least I deal in truths and know the facts.

      Reply

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