Union President Perry Sues Town Citing Harassment, Retaliation

by | Jul 29, 2018

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich Firefighter Union President Bill Perry filed suit against the town and town officials last week, citing sexual harassment from Town Council President Sue Cienki and retaliation from Town Manager Gayle Corrigan.

This is the seventh lawsuit filed by employees or former employees since Corrigan was hired in June 2017, including four filed by former Town Hall workers, one firefighter suing for defamation, one by firefighters alleging Fair Labor Standards Act violations. The town also sued the firefighters in December over implementation of a 56-hour work week.

The lawsuit lists a number of incidents, starting with the now-infamous meeting in June 2017 where Cienki told Perry she would cut off his genitals if he did “handle” firefighters. An investigation of the incident corroborated Perry’s account. Cienki apologized at a Town Council meeting several weeks later.

In the lawsuit, however, Perry alleges that Town Manager Corrigan retaliated against him when, two days after Perry brought the complaint, Corrigan hired Kristen Henrikson as fire clerk. Perry’s wife, Laurie Perry, a finance department employee at the time, had applied for the fire clerk job; Henrikson had not.

Two days after Laurie Perry filed a discrimination complaint with the state Commission for Human Rights, in August 2017, she was laid off from her job in the finance department.

Several days later, Bill Perry wrote to Town Solicitor David D’Agostino to get an update on his complaint about Cienki. Two days after that, Perry’s brother, James Perry, was fired, an action that was ruled illegal by Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl in November 2017 and James Perry was reinstated.

Bill Perry went to the Commission for Human Rights with his claims of sexual harassment and retaliation in November 2017.

In April, Perry spoke at a Town Council meeting during public comment, criticizing the town’s plan to move the fire department from a 4-platoon, 42-hour work week to a 3-platoon, 56-hour work week. Perry is a resident of East Greenwich.

Two days later, Town Manager Corrigan sent out an email to town residents calling Perry’s comments “false and misleading.”

In June, Perry signaled his plan to sue the town in a letter to the Town Council seeking monetary compensation for the alleged harassment and retaliation. The town did not respond. Later that month, Perry was suspended without pay for two days after interim fire chief Kevin Robinson determined Perry should have secured a document that came in over the fax machine. The suspension – Perry’s first – was also noted in his permanent employment file.

“We don’t have a comment about this pending litigation,” said Town Solicitor D’Agostino.

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