What Led to Corrigan’s Ouster

by | Dec 1, 2018

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Gayle Corrigan was dismissed as town manager by the Town Council on Saturday, 20 months after she first appeared on the scene in East Greenwich, following an introduction by former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Flanders (an EG resident) to then-Town Council President Sue Cienki.

Corrigan and her partner, Linda Dykeman, were hired as Providence Analytics to review first the schools’ and then the town’s finances in spring 2017. Corrigan came to East Greenwich with a pedigree of sorts in working with municipal entities in bankruptcy, specifically Central Falls in 2011-12 and Central Coventry Fire District (where she remains district manager). In Corrigan and Dykeman’s initial public presentation on town finances in June 2017, she equated East Greenwich to an earlier version of Central Falls.

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan in her office at Town Hall in August 2017.

It was under Corrigan and Dykeman’s blueprint that the Town Council approved a budget June 8, 2017, without the usual vetting in public session, upsetting many in attendance at the meeting and prompting Councilman Mark Schwager (now council president) to cast the first of a number of lone “no” votes that would become his hallmark during the 2016-18 Town Council term.

The 4-1 approved budget gave a tax cut to residents for the first time in decades, but also gave the schools less than half what the School Committee had requested.

The council then got rid of then-Town Manager Tom Coyle and hired Corrigan as acting town manager (with another 4-1 vote, Schwager the no). Days into her appointment as acting town manager, Corrigan fired the town finance director and installed Dykeman in that role, as well as firing the assistant to the town manager and the human resources director. In those initial weeks, Corrigan upended the town’s municipal court, tried to strong-arm consolidation with the school department and took aim at the fire department, particularly the fire chief’s decision to hire six so-called “lateral transfers” in 2016.

She fired one transfer, James Perry (brother of union president Bill Perry), on a Saturday night in August, an action that prompted a lawsuit and an usually speedy trial that saw Perry reinstated, as well as Corrigan’s initial appointment nullified (the Superior Court judge ruled the Town Council had violated the Open Meetings Act when they hired her in June). The loss was the first of a series of public embarrassments for the Town Council, which nonetheless stuck with Corrigan, voting her back in as town manager at a meeting in November before more than 500 residents, the vast majority unhappy to see her reappointed.

She dismissed Fire Chief Russ McGillivray in November, and the first of two interim fire chiefs were hired, both from out of state. Corrigan made the case that the 2016-19 firefighters contract was reckless, pointing to a provision that eliminated “floaters” by moving them to serve as the ninth firefighter on each platoon. The move did result in higher overtime costs, as did a swath of injuries in fiscal year 2018, as well as two vacancies that were left open for months on end. A deal with the union to bring back the floaters last December fell apart, with both sides crying foul, but afterwards members of the council majority said bringing back the floaters would not be enough. 

Instead, the town filed suit against the firefighters, with Corrigan urging implementation of a three-platoon, 56-hour work week for the firefighters to reduce overall costs, even as acting fire chief Kevin Robinson said he did not back that plan. The attempt to push the platoon change through during the middle of a contract failed, however, when a Superior Court judge ruled against the town in August.

Corrigan, and East Greenwich, landed in the news again when two complaints against Corrigan filed with the state Ethics Commission were found to have “probable cause.” One accused her of improperly hiring her business partner, Dykeman, as finance director. The other accused her of filing an ethics form late and failing to include $200,000 in compensation on that form. Cienki said she was confident Corrigan would be exonerated once she made her case. Those cases remain pending.

Corrigan was appointed town manager for a third time in June, after an eight-month search for a permanent manager that ended with two candidates: Corrigan and town resident Russell Knight. The council voted 4-1 in favor of Corrigan, who Cienki said had uncovered a number of financial issues and would do the best job negotiating union contracts (all five municipal union contracts are up June 30, 2019).

Campaign season started shortly after that third vote and, of the 10 candidates who ran for Town Council, six campaigned to get rid of Corrigan. Five of those candidates, all Democrats, won Nov. 6, a landmark sweep. The votes for candidates opposed to Corrigan represented 69 percent of votes cast for Town Council.

On Saturday the five winning candidates made good on their campaign promise.

Read more about the past two years in East Greenwich here:
What Is Happening in East Greenwich, and Why? Part 1
What Is Happening in East Greenwich, and Why? Part 2
What Is Happening in East Greenwich, and Why? Part 3


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20 Comments

  1. John Gaalt

    Welcome to East Greenwich News, the Home Of Revisionist History. “All the news that fits”

    Reply
    • Elizabeth McNamara

      You are invited to submit an op/ed with your version of events.

      Reply
  2. Ann

    Elizabeth – you are always insisting that your reporting is unbiased. Well, you said that this started with a FB post by a EG council person who made a comment some deemed offensive to women. How about reporting about this tweet by a Cranston Firefighter: “Mess with Firemen for too long and that’s that. Have a nice f-ing life, Bitch.” This is reference to our former town manager, Ms. Corrigan. Do you find this offensive? I find it offensive as a woman and as a human being, as well as being bullying and thuggish. You must have seen this because the tweet was in reply to @egreenwichnews.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth McNamara

      Ann, I have not seen that tweet. As for my reporting, I try hard to write fair stories. If there are specific instances you feel I have failed, please let me know.

      Reply
      • susan kilduff

        Elizabeth, If you’re a fair reporter you would look it up, isn’t that what good reporting is all about? See if it’s true, this tweet. No? That way, if it is true you would report it, right?

        Reply
        • Elizabeth McNamara

          Susan, I did look for it and didn’t find it – it appears to have been deleted. Someone took a screenshot of the tweet, so I was able to see it.

          Reply
          • susan kilduff

            So it’s True Elizabeth? I did not see it, but I too find that horrible to say that about anyone. Especially a person who was working on behalf of us and the town of EG. Whether you agree with her or not. I can only hope going forward that our little town is still our town and not the EG Fire Departments town. I can only wonder if it’s because she was a woman and not a man. They would never go after a man like this. I’m so sorry to see our little town. When was the last time we had a house fire? Now they have to be hard wired..I don’t understand.

    • David Caldwell

      When covering the Town of East Greenwich, treating a tweet by a sitting Town Councilor in East Greenwich with more weight than a tweet by an individual firefighter from Cranston is not “bias.”

      Attempting to equate them *is* bias — specifically, it is “Whataboutism,” a propaganda technique perfected by the Soviets to try to make the United States sound no better than the Soviet Union; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism. I am glad East Greenwich News is not falling for old Eastern Bloc propaganda tricks.

      “Local Woman Offended By Tweet She Saw Online” is not news. It’s commonplace. Tweets offend me every day. A tweet by a sitting Councilperson which turns out hundreds of people to a Council meeting to oppose it *is* news.

      Reply
      • Carla Swanson

        Thank you for pointing out Mrs. Flanders” false equivalence. East Greenwich News has provided an invaluable service to our community over these last two years. I’m grateful for Elizabeth’s careful accounting of what’s transpired.

        Reply
        • Ann

          Ms. Swanson: EG News has provided an invaluable service to you and your political beliefs for these past two years. Not mine! Thus, bias!

          Reply
      • Ann

        Haha. That is the first time in my 67 years anything I’ve said has ever been called propaganda. Mr. Caldwell, you are scary! If you don’t see that a firefighter from another town calling our former town manager a “Bitch”, and telling her to have a “nice f-ing life”, is extremely thuggish and disturbing behavior, then I give up. I am a senior woman who has lived in EG for 32 years, graduated 3 children from EGHS (one class valedictorian), grandmother of 5, who is disgusted by the meanness and rancor I see and read in a town I love. You, sir, are a social media bully who needs to find another hobby.

        Reply
        • David Caldwell

          Critiquing your attack on Ms. McNamara — by pointing out the flaws in your analogy — is not me bullying you.

          You say you are “disgusted” by the “rancor” in town — after you rancorously attacked your neighbor for “bias.” You literally say it while even more rancorously name-calling and flinging personal insults at another neighbor who provided a substantive defense of the first neighbor’s work.

          You are the only one being rancorous here. Citing the number of grandchildren you have will not change that.

          Reply
      • Dan

        Hey Dave,

        whataboutism refers to the bringing up of one issue in order to distract from the discussion of another. It does not apply to the comparison and analysis of two similar issues in terms such as why some are given more prominence than others.

        Sounds like someone needs to do a bit more homework before recklessly accusing someone of 1960’s Soviet Propaganda

        Reply
        • David Caldwell

          From the linked article:

          “Soviet-watchers called it ‘whataboutism’. This was the Communist-era tactic of deflecting foreign criticism of, say, human rights abuses, by pointing, often disingenuously, at something allegedly similar in the critic’s own country: ‘Ah, but what about…?'”

          So it is exactly the “comparison and analysis” of two *allegedly* similar issues for the purpose of distracting from the first. As I pointed out, the two issues are not similar. Textbook whataboutism.

          Reply
          • Dan

            “One should never rely on the lazy use of a cutesy, catchy term like “whataboutism” as a retort to someone who points out a glaring contradiction. If you do, you’re either a propagandist with no counterargument or a fool who mindlessly adopts the jingoistic cues of others. Responding to someone by saying “that’s just whataboutism” isn’t an argument, it’s an assault on one’s logical faculties. It’s attempt to provide people with a way to shut down debate and conversation by simply blurting out a clever sounding fake-word.”

          • Dan

            Furthermore, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.” What was the accusation or question that Ann was supposed to respond to? That’s right there was none, she was simply calling out EG News for their hypocrisy and political bias in their lack of reporting on what can be perceived as two similar issues.

            So your liberal buzz word of the day does not apply here and you should probably apologize to Ann for accusing her of employing some secret Soviet era Jedi mind tricks. But, we all know that won’t happen.

          • David Caldwell

            You’re right — simply throwing around a buzzword is not an argument.

            But that’s not what I did. I pointed out the extremely significant differences between the two things she (and now you) said are similar — a tweet by a sitting Town Councilor which drew hundreds of people to a meeting, and a tweet by a person who is not a public official, not even from East Greenwich, which did not draw hundreds of people to a meeting.

            And then I pointed out that there’s a word for that technique of creating false equivalency. It seems like you missed the first one given that you later argue that “there was none.”

            That makes me neither a propagandist or a fool (but both words make you a name-caller — an anonymous one at that). It’s not “jingoism.” It’s not “shutting down debate.”

            “Ann” (who I now know from her social media complaints about me to be Ann Flanders) brought up the second tweet in response to the article raising the first.

            That’s whataboutism.

            Finally I “accused” Ms. Flanders of nothing. She accused East Greenwich News of “bias” based on not doing an article about this random tweet. I pointed out the weaknesses in her argument and characterized them.

  3. Susan Kilduff

    I think the Fox is guarding the Hen House. Fire Fighters are being bullish about what they want. They don’t seem to realize that most of us are middle income. My taxes went up by $500 this year…can’t wait to see what happens next. Fiscal irresponsible as far as I’m concerned. I’m sorry for Ms. Corrigan, she was doing what was right for the residents, not the firemen. As a resident of over 30 years this never happened with Mr. Sequino was our Manager and he was a Democrat.

    Reply
    • William Higgins

      Town Manager William Sequino was unaffiliated, not a Democrat.

      Reply
  4. bob ingerson

    Gail Corrigan created her own demise, with help from her friends.

    Reply

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