Town Council Election Prompts Some to Stray From Party

by | Oct 28, 2018

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

In perhaps the clearest indication that not all Republicans are happy with the Republican-led Town Council, former Town Council President Michael Isaacs, a Republican, will be voting for candidates who seek to get rid of Town Manager Gayle Corrigan.

“Much of this election has focused on the town manager,” Isaacs said via email. “As I have said before, we need to end the polarization and confrontation and engage in consensus building to address the issues facing our Town. I have come to the conclusion that to do this, there needs to be a majority of people on the Town Council who are committed to appointing a new town manager.”

That would mean Isaacs is not voting for Republicans Town Council President Sue Cienki, Councilman Andy Deutsch and Charles Callanan or unaffiliated candidate Sean O’Leary, all of whom have said they supported Corrigan.

Those who have come out against Corrigan are all five Democrats – Councilman Mark Schwager, Mike Donegan, Renu Englehart, Caryn Corenthal, and Mike Zarrella – and unaffiliated candidate Bill Higgins.

Not that Isaacs has abandoned the GOP in other contests. He said he would be voting for Republicans Anthony Giarrusso for House Dist. 30 and Dana Gee for Senate Dist. 35.

Another Republican former Town Council president, Marilyn Kiesel – who served on the council from 1994 to 2004 – said she will be voting for Democrats Mark Schwager and Mike Donegan and independents Bill Higgins and Sean O’Leary due to concern over the town’s current course.

“I am not looking at political party at all in my decisions,” she said about local races. “I think it’s more important to base it on the person and their position.”

Republican Judy Stenberg has a Mark Schwager sign in her yard, not too far from signs for Republicans Giarrusso and gubernatorial candidate Alan Fung.

Stenberg said she didn’t like Corrigan’s decision to rehire Kristen Hendrikson, who had gotten an $86,000 payout for leaving her post as fire clerk in 2016 only to be hired back in 2017.

Stenberg, who attended the Oct. 15 candidates forum at the high school, said she also liked what she heard from Charles Callanan there. Callanan is a Republican. Beyond that, Stenberg said she wasn’t sure who else, if anyone, she would vote for for Town Council. She said while she and her husband are both Republicans, “We don’t vote for somebody just because they are Republican.”

This house on Rector Street at Church features signs for both Democratic and Republican candidates.

Sharon Siedliski grew up in a Republican family and was a registered Republican when she and her family moved to East Greenwich from nearby Cowesett in 2016.

“We moved in October and the election was November. I voted Republican,” she said. Then, in March 2017, Siedliski started hearing about school budget issues. Quickly, she said, she realized she needed to be paying attention to the Town Council, since it holds the purse strings.

“I disaffiliated and registered as a Democrat,” she said, attributing the change to what’s been going on in the town.

“I’m against Gayle Corrigan – I don’t support her and I don’t support any candidate who supports her,” Siedliski said. “She may be really intelligent but I don’t think she’s the right person for this job.”

Needless to say, not all Republicans are unhappy with the current Town Council, including this resident, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“I support Sue [Cienki, current Town Council president and a Republican] first and foremost because she is trying to tame the town’s spending. That does not seem to be a major concern to most other candidates – nor to the town’s most vocal voters – so unless the quiet-majority also frets about spending, we can expect the resumption of large tax increases, which just underscores the need to get more serious about moving.”

Republican Bill Wray said he hadn’t finalized his slate yet, but said this was what he would be basing it on: “that town finances need to be absolutely transparent; that we need to face up to the crisis in terms of pension costs; and that our taxes have grown to be too high in relation to other towns and need to be brought under control.”

He said Sue Cienki was an advocate for those principals but that he also liked Mike Donegan, a Democrat, because “he can do arithmetic, which is really what all of this comes down to.”

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John Gaalt
John Gaalt
October 28, 2018 9:14 pm

These good folks – unbeknownst to them – are being used. The problems didn’t start so much with Corrigan as they did with the firefighters brought over from Central Coventry. One of them, David Gorman, was President of the union there, and led the effort that ultimately put that Fire District into bankruptcy. Why has Corrigan been the target? Because she has the game figured out, and is smart enough to deal with it. Gayle Corrigan may not be the most user-friendly, but she is the most taxpayer-friendly town manager one could find. Michael Isaacs, for all his good work, got jobbed by Tom Coyle who, while nice, had no ability to balance a checkbook. If you want to criticize a town council, criticize the one who hired Coyle!

Carla Swanson
Carla Swanson
October 29, 2018 11:07 pm
Reply to  John Gaalt

Corrigan DEFINITELY “has the game figured out,” Mr. Gaalt, if by game you mean how to fleece the East Greenwich taxpayers to benefit Bob Flanders law firm and her own bank account. A ridiculously high salary, compared to other TMs in the state, and given that she ALSO works, simultaneously, for the Central Coventry Fire District…And we can document $300k in legal fees – could be more, but Corrigan ordered Dykeman not to release the town’s 4th quarter budget – UNPRECEDENTED in municipal budgeting. How do town departments know what they’re doing when they’re kept in the dark? How do taxpayers know where our money is going? And why is a supposedly expert finance director that’s been doing the work for 18 months incapable of producing an approximation of a 4th quarter budget until….after the election? “Tax-payer friendly?” How would we know?! We are fed cherry-picked, alleged savings, while the total budget is kept hidden from view.

Eugene Quinn
October 30, 2018 8:55 am
Reply to  John Gaalt

Normally I don’t consider responding to fictional characters a productive use of my time, but I have to agree that there is a game being played here. This link documents a number of examples of false and/or misleading information promulgated by the current town manager, town council majority, and their surrogates: (and yes, I am a candidate for office but most of this work was done long before I decided to run).

Jody Stone
Jody Stone
October 29, 2018 4:05 am

As expected, this article fails to mention that many residents have also been “prompted” to stray from the Democratic slate as well.

I voted for Mark Schwager in the last two elections and Mike Zarrella as well. I will not be voting for either candidate this time around.

I am far from alone.

Joseph cardello
Joseph cardello
October 29, 2018 6:12 am

Serious- the news out of town hall during the past 2 years is embarrassing for all the taxes we pay- we deserve better for what we are paying

2 clear choices

Change elected officials or move the a mayor style of leadership

Reina Burman
Reina Burman
October 29, 2018 9:33 am

Has there ever been an explanation as to why Kristen Henrikson was rehired after receiving a settlement? That has baffled and bothered me since I first read about it.

Reina Burman
Reina Burman
October 29, 2018 7:38 pm

That’s ridiculous that she would be given her job back after accepting a settlement!

Enrico Palazzo
Enrico Palazzo
October 29, 2018 11:28 am

John Gaalt supports Corrigan, eh? Reason enough there to vote straight Democratic imho.

Carla Swanson
Carla Swanson
October 30, 2018 7:32 pm
Reply to  John Gaalt

Engaged East Greenwich’s ongoing, balanced coverage of this issue.

October 31, 2018 9:48 am
Reply to  John Gaalt

I find it strange that these subterranean agreements were “just” uncovered. I also am wary of the financial impact of these agreements as I believe this is being inflated to serve a different purpose. With that being said, I do agree that these agreements should have received Town Council approval.

Carla Swanson
Carla Swanson
October 31, 2018 10:08 am

Please see below for Engaged East Greenwich’s ongoing exploration of the issue (or visit their FB page):

Steve Gregson
Steve Gregson
November 2, 2018 6:40 am

Very disappointed in the elected officials who are responsible for putting us in the current situation we find ourselves in. Also very disappointed in the attack on the current counsel and manager for turning the lights on and actually doing their job looking out for the taxpayers.
I support Corrigan and Cienki in their efforts. While “Side deals” are fairly common they should be voted on by the counsel.


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