Incoming PEMA director earns praise, but council panel declines to approve nomination

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It was the most flattering flip off of Kevin Kugel’s life.

The City Council Finance Committee showered Mayor Jorge Elorza’s selection to run the Providence Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) with praise Thursday, but then refused to send the nomination to the full council, citing concern that Kugel has been serving in the position without council approval.

“This has nothing to do with you,” Finance Committee John Igliozzi told Kugel after the committee continued the matter to the next meeting.

Igliozzi called Kugel an “exemplary individual” and thanked him for his two decades of service in the United States Army, but said he didn’t believe the retired lieutenant colonel should already be receiving a paycheck from the city.

Kugel told the committee he was offered the job in early November and said he has received one paycheck. The Elorza administration issued a press release announcing the appointment on Nov. 30, but did not say he needed to be confirmed by the council.

“What if the council rejects this? What would the ramifications be?” Igliozzi questioned.

Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan also praised Kugel’s resume, but accused the administration of “abusing the system” by allowing him to work without council approval.

“This is concerning,” she said.

It is not uncommon for mayoral nominees to begin working for the city in an acting or interim capacity prior to receiving council approval, but the practice is frowned upon by council members who view it as an attempt to sidestep their authority.

Kugel took the criticism in stride. He agreed to return to the committee later this month.

If he wins approval from the council, Kugel will succeed Michael Borg as director of PEMA. Borg is now serving as the city’s director of public works.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan