Embattled East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki has become known for her caustic style and acrimonious behavior. But EG Firefighters Association President Bill Perry said Cienki entered new territory when she threatened to remove a firefighter’s genitals and feed them to his dog.
Perry filed a complaint against Cienki for “verbal threats and sexual harassment.” The incident occurred at a June 12 meeting between two firefighters, Fire Chief Russ McGillivray, two town councilors – Cienki and Town Council Vice President Sean Todd, and the former town manager. Perry says Cienki called a fire fighter a “sociopath” and said, “I will cut his balls off and feed them to his dog,” according to the complaint.
Cienki could not be reached for comment. Town Manager Gayle Corrigan acknowledged Cienki made the statement in a written response to Perry. “The Town has determined the statements were made,” Corrigan wrote in the letter dated August 21. “Council President Cienki has been advised not to make such statements in the future as they are not conducive to productive labor-management relations.”
Perry is also considering filing criminal charges against Cienki, probably with the Rhode Island State Police instead of the East Greenwich Police. He will be making a claim with the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission.
“I don’t think people know who the real Sue Cienki is,” Perry said in an interview with RI Future. “She’s demented. There has to be something that can be done about this.”
For Cienki, the incident is the latest in a string of rude, bullying, and/or antagonistic behavior aimed at residents, activists, journalists, and now employees. She made statewide news in July when during a Town Council meeting she screamed at audience members and ended the meeting prematurely. On Saturday, after yet another Town Council meeting featuring Cienki and residents yelling back and forth, she was caught on video yelling at a local journalist.
“Sue Cienki and Gayle Corrigan need to immediately resign,” said Perry.
In his complaint, Perry said, “I fear for retaliation against myself, my family and my fellow firefighters.” In an interview, he said the retaliation is already in full swing. His brother and wife both work for the town. His brother James Perry, also a fire fighter, was fired in an email from Corrigan sent Saturday night at 10:18. Laurie Perry, his wife, works in the finance department and was laid off today.
“It’s the number one retaliation case I’ve ever seen,” Bill Perry said. “They are literally targeting my family.”
The three Perrys, said Bill, plan to sue the town, and he’s confident they have a strong case. “By the time the lawsuits come down, years from now, Sue Cienki and Gayle Corrigan will be long gone and the taxpayers will be left with the bills.”
The incident took place on June 12. Perry said he asked for a meeting with two members of the Town Council and the town manager after a June 5 presentation from Gayle Corrigan, who was not yet the town manager but a private consultant doing work for the Town Council.
“I thought it was done very poorly and made a lot of false statements about the Fire Department,” Perry said about Corrigan’s presentation. “The meeting was basically to ask why Sue would allow someone to come in here and tell lies about us. She basically let Gayle attack us.”
According to the complaint, Cienki singled out probationary firefighter Dave Gorman, who was previously the union president for the Central Coventry Fire District. Corrigan is the executive director of the Central Coventry Fire Department as well as the town manager of East Greenwich.
Perry, in his complaint, accuses Cienki of making a very similar threat to him. “Everyone in the room looked shocked, except Sean Todd, who laughed.” Todd, the town council vice president, said he could not comment on the issue.
“They are being outright negligent,” Perry said. “I don’t understand why the rest of the Town Council is letting them do this.”