It’s unclear if the cancellation indicates the Town Council has soured on Corrigan. But Council President Sue Cienki did admit for the first time publicly that Corrigan is not instrumental to East Greenwich moving forward – a sea change from her earlier unwavering support for the rookie town manager who has presided over months of controversy, consternation and civic chaos in this otherwise bucolic West Bay suburb.
“It doesn’t matter who is the town manager,” Cienki told reporters after cancelling the meeting. “This is not about Gayle. This is about the Town Council having an agenda to move forward.”
With the Corrigan question in limbo, the East Greenwich Town Council also paid lip service to transparent government last night, which is itself a change in course for this Town Council that last week was reprimanded and fined by a Superior Court judge for five “willful and knowing” violations of the state Open Meetings Act. Cienki told the capacity crowd that the meeting was cancelled because the Swift Community Center is too small to host the well more than 300 people who came out for the meeting.
“That’s the best way to make sure that everybody gets to see government in action,” Cienki told the capacity crowd , which broke out into laughter at the notion that Cienki, Corrigan’s chief supporter, wants to involve residents in town government.
At the very least it represents a starkly different approach to governing than has been seen from the East Greenwich Town Council since Corrigan came to town. The past six months have been marked by a litany of OMA violations and complaints, a general disdain for citizen participation, and hasty decisions that have resulted in lawsuits.
One of those lawsuits resulted in Corrigan being stripped of her town manager title. Judge Susan McGuirl said the Town Council “willfully and knowingly” violated the state Open Meetings Act five times in appointing Corrigan town manager.
The Town Council was meeting last night to address that decision, it has seven days to do so if the elected officials want to retain Corrigan.
Since the lawsuit was decided, it has become even more politically untenable to do so, with even prominent local Republicans imploring the Town Council to seek a different direction.
“I think it’s time for the Town Council to re-assess the Town Manager position, bring in a new manager and move forward expeditiously with the manager search,” said Michael Isaacs, a well-respected Republican former town council president who served for 12 years.
At the same time, it’s become clear Corrigan is also causing similar controversy at the Central Coventry Fire District, where she is also employed, and that there are many other options for a temporary town manager.
Former town manager Bill Sequino, who served as EG’s chief executive for more than 20 years, said he would be open to serving in an interim capacity even though he now lives in Colorado. “A few months is not a long time,” he told RI Future.
Many residents have suggested longtime Public Works Department Director Joe Duarte, who Sequino once groomed to replace him. Others hope the Town Council considers Michael D’Amico, the former chief of staff to Providence Angel Taveras who lives in East Greenwich.