Gayle Corrigan, East Greenwich’s controversial and court-prone town manager who is being investigated by the state Ethics Commission for helping her friend and colleague Linda Dykeman become the town’s finance director, recommended Dykeman for that position at her first Town Council meeting as town manager.
That’s what Town Council Vice President Sean Todd said on the witness stand while the town was involved in another legal action concerning Corrigan’s tenure as town manager.
“She was the recommendation for that role,” Todd said under oath of Dykeman becoming finance director. He was testifying at the trial that eventually found the Town Council guilty of violating the state Open Meetings Act five times in appointing Corrigan as town manager.
Cross-examining Todd, labor lawyer Liz Wiens asked, “Who recommended [Dykeman]?” To which Todd said, “The person that put the One Town plan together, Ms. Corrigan.”
The state Ethics Commission voted 5 to 0 this week to investigate whether Corrigan helped Dykeman become employed in East Greenwich. The Code of Ethics law says, “No person subject to this code of ethics shall use in any way his or her public office or confidential information received through his or her holding any public office to obtain financial gain, other than that provided by law, for him or herself or any person within his or her family, any business associate, or any business by which the person is employed or which the person represents.” According to a lawyer for the Ethics Commission, no one sought an advisory opinion about the new town manager hiring her former business partner.
Corrigan and Dykeman are both principles with Providence Analytics, or Management Resource Partners, a Corrigan-owned company. Providence Analytics was hired by the East Greenwich Town Council to audit town and school spending during the budget process. Bob Flanders, a Republican East Greenwich resident who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, said he talked to Cienki about Corrigan’s “skill set” and doing “some sort of analysis” before Corrigan, a longtime friend of his, was hired.
The audit produced a plan that largely mirrored what Cienki, Todd, Flanders and other local small government conservatives had clamoring for – steep cuts to taxes, school spending and government services.
Corrigan’s audit also led to beloved Town Manager Tom Coyle being terminated and replaced by Corrigan. Then, in short order, the town finance director and administrative assistant were also both fired and quickly replaced by colleagues of Corrigan. Dykeman, who worked with Corrigan at Providence Analytics, became the finance director and Michaela Antunes, who knew Corrigan from the Hope Club, replaced an administrative assistant.
Coyle settled with the Town Council already, the other two employees are suing for wrongful termination.
Dykeman and Antunes attended Town Council meetings in support of Corrigan before she became town manager. Dykeman presented to the Town Council as a principle with Providence Analytics. Antunes sat in the audience.
While Antunes was hired to replace the administrative assistant, she was given the title of Chief of Staff and Human Resources Director. She is currently taking classes at Salve Regina to become accredited in human resource administration.
“Dykeman didn’t even have to put in her resume,” said Bill Higgins, a former East Greenwich Police captain and longtime resident who filed the ethics complaint against Corrigan.”The residents, taxpayers and employees of this town deserve better.”
While on the witness stand, Todd said he didn’t see an issue hiring both Corrigan and Dykeman. “I didn’t there was any better was anybody better to implement the plan than the people who put the plan together,” he said from the witness stand during the Perry v. Corrigan trial.
Nor does it seem the Town Council looked for anyone better.
“Did you have any discussion about putting the matter out to bid?” Wiens asked Todd. “I’m not recalling,” he answered.
Town Council President Sue Cienki said of the matter, “Per the Town Charter, the Town’s finance director is appointed by the Town Council, not the town manager.”
According to the Town Charter, the town manager is responsible for appointing a finance director. “The Director of Finance shall be appointed by the Town Manager with the approval of the Town Council,” reads section C-91.
The Town Council did not vote on hiring Dykeman or Antunes in open session, and her hiring does not appear to have been cited on a meeting agenda. While on the witness stand for the other trial, Todd could not recall if the Town Council formally voted to approve Dykeman’s hire.
“I’m not recalling if we did,” he said, according to the court transcript. “We discussed it. We talked about savings.”