Barrington council quiet on manager’s call to professor’s boss

Barrington council quiet on manager’s call to professor’s boss

Council president June Speakman (center) and councilor Ann Strong (right) will spearhead a subcommittee focused on establishing standards for the Spencer Trust.

Council president June Speakman (center) is shown at the recent financial town meeting. Peter DeAngelis is seated next to Ms. Speakman.
Council president June Speakman (center) is shown at the recent financial town meeting. Peter DeAngelis (left) is seated next to Ms. Speakman.
June Speakman wants to see the numbers.

The president of the Barrington Town Council said she has tried to contact Roger Williams University professor Lynn Ruggieri, who recently conducted an analysis of whether Barrington saved money through privatizing trash and recycling collection services in 2010.

Ms. Speakman said she e-mailed and called Ms. Ruggieri regarding the analysis but has not heard back from her.

The council president was one of two town council members who, in 2010, voted against privatizing the trash service. She lost that vote but said she’s interested in seeing Ms. Ruggieri’s analysis which reportedly shows the town is spending more money now than when it maintained a refuse and recycling collection program at the department of public works.

“I would love to look at the numbers,” Ms. Speakman said.

It’s those numbers that created a rift between the town manager, Peter DeAngelis, and Ms. Ruggieri. Mr. DeAngelis was the driving force behind the push for privatization. He has maintained that the town could not afford to keep trash collection services in-house, that the town stood to save tens of thousands of dollars, in not more, through privatization.

Ms. Ruggieri, a Barrington resident and professor of accounting at Roger Williams, disagrees. She said she analyzed the financial information associated with the trash collection change when she started to build a case study for her students and found that the move to dump the DPW service and contract with MEGA Disposal was costing the taxpayers more.

Ms. Ruggieri brought her findings to The Barrington Times, which triggered a response from Mr. DeAngelis. Shortly after discovering about Ms. Ruggieri’s work, the town manager called the professor’s boss — the Roger Williams University president.

When Ms. Ruggieri realized what had happened, she said she was shocked by the town manager’s action.

“I was stunned. I never expected that in my wildest dreams,” she said. “I was floored.”

Ms. Speakman and the other councilors, however, appear less concerned.

The council president said neither she nor any of the other councilors had requested the issue be placed on the October meeting agenda. Ms. Speakman, who is a professor of political science at Roger Williams University, said she believes Mr. DeAngelis contacted the college president not in an effort to get Ms. Ruggieri fired or in trouble with her employer, but only to expedite a meeting with the professor.

“He wanted the president to help her get the numbers out,” Ms. Speakman said. “I can see how it appears heavy-handed … I remain puzzled as to why she hasn’t” reached out to the manager or returned my calls, Ms. Speakman added.

The council president said she imagines she could be Ms. Ruggieri’s biggest supporter if, in fact, the analysis proves a financial detriment to the town’s taxpayers. Ms. Speakman said she has never wanted a private contractor handling the refuse and recycling collection services. She said profit-making businesses providing public services concern her greatly.

“I believe it (trash pickup) is a function of government. It’s a philosophical belief. I like a full menu of public services offered by the government. I’m a big government Democrat,” she said.

The council president said she fielded a few questions regarding the confrontation between Mr. DeAngelis and Ms. Ruggieri but has not felt the need to address his actions in a public setting. She said she did not discuss the situation with any of her fellow councilors either.

Speaking only for herself, Ms. Speakman said Mr. DeAngelis’s phone call to the Roger Williams University president was not troubling.