EAST GREENWICH- Hours before the East Greenwich Town Council was set to convene Tuesday night, ACCESS RI, a coalition dedicated to improving access to records and government, called on the council to cancel its meeting, claiming an Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation and calling the agenda “insulting to all residents.”
After a Superior Court ruling last week by Judge Susan McGuirl found that the appointment of town manager Gayle Corrigan was done in violation of the OMA, ruling her appointment and contract with the town “null and void,” the council posted an agenda for a special meeting for Nov. 14 with three agenda items up for discussion or action— the appointment of Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager, the ratification of Town Manager Term Sheet retroactive July 1, 2017 and the ratification of all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan as town manager from June 19, 2017 to November 14, 2017.
The ACCESS RI board took issue with the agenda item to ratify all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan as town manager, claiming it violated the OMA requirement for public notice.
“The agenda item is a case of the council thumbing its nose at the public’s right to know what action the council is taking,” the ACCESS RI statement reads.
The East Greenwich Town Council was found to have five willful and knowing violations of the OMA in court last Wednesday, and in a letter to East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki urging her to cancel the Nov. 14 meeting, members of the ACCESS RI board wrote that with the vague agenda items, members of the public have no way of knowing what decisions are going to be ratified, making it a violation.
“Ms. Corrigan might have taken dozens, if not hundreds, of actions between June 19 and November 14, some or all of which may be of interest to various members of the public,” the letter reads.
The letter was signed by all of the ACCESS RI board members; ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown, President of the League of Women Voters of RI Jane Koster, ACCESS RI President Linda Levin, Common Cause RI Executive Director John Marion, University of Rhode Island Journalism Department Chair John Pantalone and New England First Amendment Coalition Executive Director Justin Silverman.
“It is insulting to all the residents of East Greenwich to see the Town Council doubling down on violations of the Open Meetings Act mere days after being found in violation of that statute,” ACCESS RI said in a statement. “This agenda is a quintessential example of how not to be transparent with the public.”
The letter ended by saying the meeting is “clearly illegal” and should be cancelled until such time as a proper agenda is posted.
The OMA requires that a statement “specifying the nature of the business to be discussed” be included in the agenda, and according to the ACCESS RI board the town council’s agenda should describe the business more specifically.
According to East Greenwich Chief of Staff Michaela Antunes, EG Town Solicitor David D’Agostino met with Judge McGuirl Tuesday afternoon and following the meeting the council removed the discussion item to ratify actions of the town manager from the council agenda to be placed on an agenda for a future meeting in more detail, making it OMA compliant.