EAST PROVIDENCE — With the East Providence Budget Commission having served its notice of departure during its Feb. 28 meeting, the next bit of business is to find a conduit between the state and city as part of the five-year continued oversight as written in the legislation creating the governing body.
State Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly offered up a broad outline of the position, titled a Municipal Administration and Finance Officer (AFO). The process is expected to be concluded in time for the final scheduled Budget Commission meeting on Thursday, March 28.
Mrs. Galllogly explained her department will coordinate the search to the fill the position. The job will be listed in The Providence Journal, The East Providence Post and on the Department of Labor and Training website. At least three “successful” candidates will be forwarded to the “Mayor of the City of East Providence” or the highest ranking elected official, which is City Council President James Briden. According to piece of the legislation, Mr. Briden, alone, will make the decision on the hire.
“That is my reading of the law,” Mr. Briden said of his role in choosing the prospective AFO. “I think what is important to understand from (Thursday’s) meeting is that even though I will be part of the process only the Director of Revenue can remove this person from the position. I think that’s a good thing. It almost immunizes that individual from the influence of local politics.”
Without getting into too many specifics, Mrs. Gallogly said the AFO will have oversight of East Providence’s day-to-day operations, though most of those tasks will return to those deemed to have authority according to the City Charter — the City Manager, Schools Superintendent and Finance Director. The city will be responsible for the compensation package associated with the position, its total likely to reach six figures when combining salary and benefits.
Again, according to the Budget Commission legislation, Mrs. Gallogly, as State Director of Revenue, has ultimate authority over the AFO and many aspects of East Providence’s governance for the five years after the Commission is dissolved.
“I think this individual can play an important role of keeping us on track financially as well as continuing the same rigorous fiscal approach to city government we’ve had under the Budget Commission,” Mr. Briden continued. “I think most residents of the city appreciate the progress we’ve made here over the last 15 months under the Budget Commission. They’ve done some very good work and I really believe they’ve established a model to be used in other municipalities.”
Mr. Briden, who has served on the Commission for the last four months, was effusive in his praise of the state overseers, acknowledging many of the decisions they made were needed and could have been difficult for elected officials to replicate.
“These people (Stephen Bannon, Diane Brennan and Michael O’Keefe) volunteered their services. They put a lot of time and effort into it and they deserve a lot of appreciation. I think it’s important for the City of East Providence to recognize and thank them for their efforts,” Mr. Briden added.
Mr. Briden is embracing the concept of continued state oversight, saying it offers the city a chance to reinforce relationships with members of state government while also affording East Providence the opportunity to build on the fiscal prudence initiated by the Commission.
“In a general sense, I think what we’ve learned is that municipalities need to interact with all levels of state government, including many of the departments,” Mr. Briden said. “I think we need to continue to reaffirm our relationship with the Department of Revenue in the future and maintain a continued dialogue with the state.”
Ultimately, however, the fate of the city for the most part is back in the hands of the politicians, the members of the City Council and the School Committee which for the last year-plus were rendered impotent on most matters of importance due to the presence of the Budget Commission.
The elected officials of East Providence will get their chance to govern once again and it is up to them not to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors, according to the Council President.
“I think the objective going forward is to be disciplined and maintain the status quo in terms of our finances. We need to vigorously and continually review our expenditures and closely monitor our revenue,” Mr. Briden said. “We don’t want to put ourselves in the position where history repeats itself and the Budget Commission is reinstated. I think we, as elected officials, should have some intellectual humility in this regard. I think it would serve us and the city well.”