Disappointing hundreds of residents who came to advocate against Gayle Corrigan, the East Greenwich Town Council reappointed the controversial rookie town manager on Monday night in a three to two vote.
“Is she an unpopular character? Sure,” said Republican Town Council President Sue Cienki in defending her decision to stick with Corrigan after a Superior Court judge nullified her initial appointment because of five “willful and knowing” violations of the state Open Meetings Act. “But it’s not about her. We are here to correct a procedural problem.”
Cienki maintains much of the controversy surrounding Corrigan’s tenure is justified because of previously unforeseen catastrophic budget issues that Corrigan identified. “We are not the town we thought we were financially,” Cienki said. “It is not a Gayle Corrigan problem.”
But Democrat Mark Schwager disagreed. Whatever East Greenwich’s fiscal situation may be – and he vehemently disagrees with Cienki that the affluent suburb is in dire financial straights – he said Corrigan has made everything more difficult for East Greenwich.
“She has become a lightening rod and I don’t think she can be effective in that position,” he said to raucous cheers. Schwager has become a liberal hero in East Greenwich for his ardent opposition to Corrigan.
“We’ve damaged the important relationships that government has with its community,” Schwager said. “No matter how strongly elected officials feel that what they are doing is good for the town, they must bring the community along with them.”
Councilors Nino Granatiero and Sean Todd sided with Cienki to keep Corrigan.
“I do not view this judge’s decision as some sort of mandate and final decision to hit this imaginary reset button and scrap everything that this town council has done in the past few months,” Granatiero said as the audience booed his words.
Todd said he ran for office to address fiscal concerns, and he thinks Corrigan is helpful to that end.
Republican Andy Deutsch, who previously voted for Corrigan, joined Schwager in voting against her. “It felt like it was the right thing to do,” Deutsch said after the meeting. “I felt there was a real intrinsic value to an exit strategy.”
The Town Council was meeting to address a recent Superior Court decision that nullified Corrigan’s initial appointment as town manager for five “willful and knowing” violations of the state Open Meetings Act. The meeting was held at the high school auditorium, which seats more than 600, and was filled close to capacity. Most in attendance were vehemently opposed to reappointing Corrigan.
Residents admonished town councilors for sticking with Corrigan. An elderly man almost broke into tears while testifying about the rancor. Several employment lawyers said Corrigan’s employment contract leaves the town vulnerable. Many said they moved here for top notch schools and a small town feel, both of which have been damaged during Corrigan’s time in East Greenwich.
Cienki reiterated her promise to swiftly search for a permanent town manager. Corrigan was not at the meeting.