As Bob Flanders was considering running for the Senate, he was also talking up his friend and former colleague Gayle Corrigan to East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki. “Gayle was someone we did talk about, yes,” Flanders told me in June. “We talked about her skill set and what she can bring to the table.”
While Corrigan has brought controversy to East Greenwich in her six month tenure as town manager, she also delivered cash to Flander’s Senate campaign.
On September 4, Corrigan gave $5,400 to Flanders’ Senate campaign, half of which was redirected from his primary efforts to the general election. Corrigan confidant Linda Dykeman made an identical donation to Flanders’ campaign on the same day. Dykeman became the finance director in East Greenwich shortly after Corrigan was made town manager. The two women previously worked closely together at the YMCA, and both have discrimination lawsuits against the organization.
Cienki, the town council president who first took Flanders’ recommendation on Corrigan, hiring her first as a budget consultant and then quickly installing her as town manager, donated $1,000 to Flanders on June 18 – one week after the Town Council passed Corrgan’s budget recommendations and one day before it formerly began considering a new town manager.
The donations were first reported by Frank Prosnitz, an East Greenwich resident, on What’sUpNewp.
To be sure, Flanders and Corrigan have enjoyed a close relationship long before Corrigan became town manager in East Greenwich, where Flanders lives. She served as his chief off staff when he was the receiver to Central Falls during its bankruptcy. And Cienki is far from the only East Greenwich Republican to support Flanders’ financially.
“This whole situation stinks real bad,” tweeted East Greenwich Fire Department union president Bill Perry. “I don’t know anyone who donates $5,400 to someone running for a political office.”
Since Corrigan came to East Greenwich, her and Cienki have teamed up to target the local fire department. Cienki admits she threatened to mutilate a fire fighter’s genitals. Corrigan was recently chided by a Superior Court judge for dismissing a fire fighter without a reasonable cause. She also fired the chief, and rehired a fire department employee who once settled a lawsuit with the town and agreed to leave her job.
“Gayle and Sue don’t want peace,” Perry said. They “will continue to retaliate against us.” Many in East Greenwich fear the objective is to force lawsuits between the town and the fire department.
Tim Cavazza, a partner in Flanders’ law firm, is representing the town in talks with the fire fighters, according to Perry. “October 23rd we had the meeting with [Tim] Cavazza and Gayle [Corrigan],” he said.
— William Perry (@perry_local3328) September 12, 2017
Flanders and Corrigan made more than $1million working to restructure Central Falls, an issue the Rhode Island Democratic Party hit Flanders with when he announced his candidacy.
Cienki and other local Republicans have been likening East Greenwich’s alleged budget woes to Central Falls’ since shortly before Corrigan was hired. They say East Greenwich Faces a looming budget crisis if employee costs are not reduced.
Flanders has long wanted to bring the hard-ball negotiating tactics he employed in Central Falls to other Rhode Island municipalities. He asked Providence Mayor Angel Taveras to hire him, but Taveras declined.
Flanders once famously publicly negotiated with public sector workers in Central Falls by offering them either a haircut or a beheading. At the Ocean State Follies in 2012, he said, “There’s talk of sending me to East Providence or West Warwick or Providence,” Flanders said in mocking his own reputation as the “Darth Flanders, Lord of the Pinkslip” at the Ocean State Follies in 2012. “Why can’t they send me to Newport, or Block Island. I’d even take Charlestown?”
But the hard-ball tactics have not played well in East Greenwich, a financially-strong suburb that is not constricted by a bankruptcy ruling. A Superior Court judge recently rescinded Corrigan’s appointment as town manager, citing five “willful” violations of the state Open Meetings Act by the Town Council in appointing her. Corrigan’s tactics also drew a strong rebuke from the judge, who said the fire fighter she wrongfully fired “deserves better than he received from his employer, the Town of East Greenwich.”