PROVIDENCE — East Providence must still hire an Administrative and Finance Officer for a five-year period of continued oversight, but it won’t cost as much.
The Rhode Island General Assembly this week reconciled legislation to amend state oversight with the city specifically in mind.
Following passage of its companion bill (S0984A) in the Senate the previous day, the House of Representatives approved its own version (H6310) changing oversight of distressed municipalities Friday, June 28, inserting language geared for cities and towns that are run under a Manager form of governance.
The bills were introduced by East Providence Reps. Helio Melo, Gregg Amore and Katherine Kazarian among others in the House while Daniel DaPonte and William Conley were among those to pen the legislation in the Senate.
The key changes locally have to do with compensation and authority.
The Assembly instituted a new policy where by the state and the affected municipalities evenly share the cost of hiring an Administrative and Finance Officer (AFO) upon the abolition of oversight by the State Department of Revenue. Previously, only the cities and towns were required to pay for the position. The AFO is expected to be compensated in the range of $150,000 annually for the five year period he or she is in place.
In addition, the original Budget Commission legislation only took into account municipalities with a “chief elected officer” or mayor in regard to having the power to hire an AFO. Since East Providence and other cities and towns with Managerial forms of government do not have a chief elected officer, the authority to hire has now been granted to the full elected council.
Previously, it was assumed James Briden, as Council president and ceremonial mayor, would be able to choose the AFO on his own. That will no longer be the case. The entire council will choose between three candidates provided to it by the Department of Revenue.
Also of note, the bill makes no mention of the AFO having any direct say in personnel matters, something the Budget Commission had control of when it was seated initially and the power it currently has after being reinstalled following an attempt by City Manager Peter Graczykowski to remove East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares from his position in April of this year.
The last line of each bill reads, “Nothing contained herein removes duties from existing positions in the city or town.” It would seem then the City Manager and Superintendent of Schools, through the City Council and School Committee respectively, will retain the autonomous ability to hire and fire personnel once the AFO is installed.