East Greenwich Town Council meeting canceled due to overcapacity

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — The East Greenwich Town Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday night was canceled because officials said the room was at capacity.

On the agenda for the town council meeting, the town of East Greenwich is planned to reinstate a town manager whose appointment was invalidated by a Superior Court judge.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl said the process of appointing Gayle Corrigan as town manager in June violated the state open meetings law, and “misled the people of East Greenwich,” the judge said in court.

The meeting was set for 7 p.m. at the Swift Community Center on Pierce Street in East Greenwich, which is one of the largest town buildings with a capacity of 253.

It was supposed to include the appointment of Corrigan as town manager, followed by the ratification of a town manager term sheet retroactive to July 1, and then the council is slated to ratify all the actions Corrigan took during her stint as town manager between June 19 and Nov. 14.

The room was packed prior to the meeting, with many residents holding signs, some saying, “If Gayle’s in, you’re out!” The crowd was furious to find out the meeting was being cancelled.

Town Council President Sue Cienki said the meeting is being moved to a bigger location so everyone will have the opportunity to attend.

Some residents don’t believe that is the case.

“The only reason they canceled this meeting tonight was they saw a whole room of taxpayers, and they obviously don’t want to answer to taxpayers,” William Perry of the East Greenwich Firefighters Union said.

Councilman Mark Schwager voted against Corrigan’s appointment in June and says he will vote against her again.

“These are people who are really pouring out their heart about feelings that are going on with their town,” he said. “I’ve been involved in town government for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen the problems that we have at present.”

Schwager was the only councilperson to follow part of the large crowd of meeting attendees down the road to the armory, where the Town Democratic Committee opened the floor for public comment.

“To say that this appointment has been nullified by a judge. To now just go and ratify it without looking back and saying, let’s take some time, let’s take a breath, let’s get some input from the community,” Resident Kim Kinzie said.

Cienki said holding the public meeting will follow the directive of the judge. She said the re-appointment isn’t about Corrigan.

“This is not about Gayle. This is about us,” Cienki said. “This is about the Town Council having an agenda to move forward, and it doesn’t matter who is the town manager. That agenda needs to keep going forward.”

The town has seven days to hold another public meeting to remedy the issue, per the courts ruling. Town Council plans to move the meeting to the high school, where the capacity is 500. It is unknown at this time when within the next seven days that meeting will take place.