The Rhode Island Ethics Commissions is investigating a complaint against East Greenwich Town Manager Gayle Corrigan that alleges she recommended the Town Council hire Linda Dykeman, her friend and business partner.
Dykeman worked for Corrigan’s consulting firm that was initially contracted by the Town Council to audit the budget. She was named joint finance director of the town and school department shortly after Corrigan was named town manager.
“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 complaint.”The residents, taxpayers and employees of this town deserve better.”
The Ethics Commission voted unanimously, 5 to 0, to investigate Higgins’ allegations, said staff attorney Jason Grammit. The Commission has six months from when it received the complaint to make a ruling, he said. The complaint was received on December 15.
In his complaint, Higgins called attention to the state Code of Ethics law for public officers and employees. “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.”
Grammit would not answer questions about the investigation. He said neither Corrigan, Dykeman, nor the town sought an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission on the matter. Advisory opinions are the transparent process for seeking relief from or clarification on the Code of Ethics.
Higgins’ also says in his complaint that Michaela Antunes, Corrigan’s assistant who replaced a previous employee, knew Corrigan from the Hope Club, where Antunes worked and Corrigan was a member. “It is unknown if Ms. Antunes is associated with Management Resource Partners, Providence Analytics” or any of the other companies Corrigan has registered with the Secretary of State’s office, said Higgins’ complaint.
Both Dykeman and Antunes are paid more than the people they replaced. “Ms. Antunes is being paid … an annual salary of $77,000, which is over $20,000 more than the executive assistant was being paid,” Higgins wrote in his complaint. Antunes, whose job title has been changed but performs many of the same duties of the previous assistant, has confirmed these figures.
“None of these positions were posted, advertised, or open for others to apply,” Higgins wrote.
“I just think [Corrigan] is a hypocrite,” he told RI Future. “She complains about the hiring at the fire department but she hires all her friends.”
Corrigan tried, but was overruled by a judge, to terminate a fire fighter because his brother is also a fire fighter. In that case, the Perry brothers did get an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission.
Corrigan could not immediately be reached for comment. East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki said she had not yet heard about the Ethics Commission decision to investigate Corrigan but would comment when she learned more. When asked if she considered getting an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission before hiring Corrigan’s business partner as Corrigan’s employee, she said, “Let me find out about it and I’ll get back to you.”
UPDATE: Cienki sent RI Future this comment Wednesday afternoon, via Antunes (who is mentioned above): “Per the Town Charter, the Town’s finance director is appointed by the Town Council, not the town manager. The Council hired Linda Dykeman because of her certifications, qualifications, and school and municipal finance experience. She was hired in an open, transparent process, and was also working for the EG School Department prior to becoming a Town employee. It was the Council’s decision to hire Ms. Dykeman, not Ms. Corrigan’s. The ethics complaint is in the preliminary stages and the process will unfold according to the Commission’s rules. We look forward to cooperating fully with the investigation.”
UPDATE: The Town Charter stipulates the town manager is to appoint a finance director. Section C-91, under Department of Finance, says, “The Director of Finance shall be appointed by the Town Manager with the approval of the Town Council.”