EAST PROVIDENCE — Responding to a request from the East Providence Budget Commission, the City Council at its meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 22, unanimously reappointed Tim Chapman, Bob Craven and Greg Dias to their respective city solicitor posts and determined a new salary structure for each, though the ultimate fate of the trio remained in limbo.
For several months, the Budget Commission has considered the consolidation of legal services for the city and the school department. The Request for Proposal (RFP) process was recently completed and a Commission subcommittee has finalized its recommendations on the matter, according to Council President/Mayor and Commission member James Briden.
Commission member and City Manager Peter Graczykowski told the Council Tuesday a draft of the recommendations would be submitted to the Budget Commission in time to make the agenda for its next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 31.
The state overseers, it should be well known by now after some 13 months in charge, have final say on all appointments and hirings in the city.
“I think the subcommittee has completed a review of all the bids and is ready to submit our recommendation to the Commission,” Mr. Briden said in a follow-up interview Wednesday, Jan. 23. “I think the Budget Commission could be in a position to wrap it up on Jan. 31.”
The Budget Commission at its last meeting on Jan. 17 addressed the issue of appointments made by the City Council on Dec. 3, including those of Messrs. Chapman, Craven and Dias.
Besides the possibility of combining legal services, the Commission did not approve of the current salary structure for solicitors.
The City Solicitor position, which will still be held by Orlando Andreoni through at least Jan. 31, previously came with a salary of $54,000 and was also considered a city employee, which came with a pension and total package of some $70,000 per year.
Mr. Craven, the lone hold-over of the solicitors, was being paid on a $4,000 a month retainer as an assistant plus a rate of $142.50 per hour for “non-municipal court and prosecution work.” The second assistant solicitor, a position formerly occupied by Gina DiCenso, was being paid solely at a rate of $142.50 per hour for services rendered.
It should be noted, the Commission last week said the firms of both Mr. Craven and Ms. DiCenso were among those who applied for the consolidated legal position per the RFP.
Upon reappointment by the Council, those salary figures and occupational descriptions were changed.
As part of the resolution to reappoint, Mr. Briden said the City Solicitor would in the future receive an annual fee of $65,000 while the two assistants would be paid a flat rate of $40,000. Also of significance, none would be city employees. Each would be considered “1099” employees or independent contractors with no benefits package.
Mr. Briden said the salary figures were determined as a “result of a great deal of analysis about the position and the time it involves.”
“The compensation is fair and makes sense compared to what has existed in the past and what the work entails. And it makes it less expensive for the city,” Mr. Briden added. “This was actually a very good exercise to see another way how to make the city more efficient.”
With the reappointments done, the next move now falls to the Budget Commission, which is expected to make a determination either way at its Jan. 31 meeting.
If the Commission decides to consolidate, the solicitor appointments would be void and one firm would be hired to handle all of East Providence’s legal matters.
If it decides to keep separate representation for the city and the school department, then the appointments of Messrs. Chapman, Craven and Dias would likely become official upon second approval by the Commission, which would take place at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 13.
In addition, the firm of Silva, Thomas, Martland, & Offenberg, which has remained as school department legal counsel, would also likely continue in that position.
Mr. Briden, himself a lawyer and former city solicitor, was reluctant to offer an opinion on whether consolidation of legal services was practical, saying out of respect for the Commission he would decline to comment.
“I think the Budget Commission will need to review all of the details and then make its decision,” he said.