A Superior Court judge nullified Gayle Corrigan’s appointment as town manager of East Greenwich and fined the town $2,000, plus attorney fees, for “five willful and knowing violations” of the state Open Meetings Act in appointing her to that position.
“It is apparent that the Town Council willfully and knowingly violated the OMA,” wrote Judge Susan E. McGuirl in her 73 page opinion released today that serves as a blistering rebuke of the Republican-dominated Council’s highly controversial and unpopular efforts to install Corrigan as the town manager.
Corrigan’s appointment as both acting town manager and town manager have been declared “null and void” as has her $184,000 a year contract.
The East Greenwich Town Council posted an agenda today at 5pm for a meeting on Nov. 14. The agenda calls for “Appointment of Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager,” and “Ratification of all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager from July 1, 2017 – November 14” as well as a vote to ratify her contract.
“Public service is an honor,” McGuirl wrote. “Public officials are voted upon and trusted to represent their constituents and make decisions for them. The process is done in the light, not in the dark. The people have the right to hear those officials’ explanations, their decisions, and their votes.”
“The appointment of the Town Manager in a Council-Manager form of government is the single biggest decision a Town Council makes,” McGuirl wrote. “The people of the Town were entitled to hear their representatives’ discussions and their reasoning for voting on Corrigan’s appointment and for Corrigan’s compensation package. In the meetings at which appointments were made, the Town Council did not provide any notice of their intention to vote for the Town Manager or approve her contract. The Town Council voted for the appointment and contract behind closed doors. The Town Council did not always keep minutes of their meetings or an audio recording.
“Based on the compelling and credible evidence before it, this Court finds that the Town’s appointment of the Town Manager misled the public,” wrote the judge.
McGuirl also found the Town Council violated its Town Charter, but imposed no fines for this. “The Court will leave it to the citizens of the Town,” McGiurl wrote.
It was East Greenwich firefighter Jim Perry who brought the town to court, saying he was unlawfully terminated. The court admonished East Greenwich for his this, too, and reinstated Perry to his job.
“He deserves better than he received from his employer, the Town of East Greenwich,” according to the judge. “Corrigan had no valid basis to terminate FF Perry. As a result of this Decision, FF Perry is ordered reinstated to his position with the EGFD as Corrigan’s actions on behalf of the Town are hereinafter null and void.”
Corrigan said she fired Perry because she said he lied on his resume. Perry does not have a physical certificate for a fire fighter training for which he is certification. At the time he became certified, certificates were not widely used. The judge blasted Corrigan in her decision for calling Perry a liar.
Corrigan advanced a number of theories regarding FF Perry’s alleged ‘lies’ and ‘misrepresentations,'” she wrote. “The Town Manager was wrong. FF Perry did not lie. He never said he had a certificate—in fact, he stated that he did not. The claim that he somehow said or wrote he did on his resume is false.”
Further, McGuirl accused Corrigan and East Greenwich of mistreating its first responders.
“This court finds the Town’s FF Perry intentionally misrepresented himself and that he lied on his resume to be unwarranted to a first responder who has dedicated himself to the fire service for twenty-eight years.”
It’s unclear how the East Greenwich Town Council will react to the decision and what it means for any decisions Corrigan made while in the town manager position.