EAST PROVIDENCE — East Providence City Council President and Mayor James Briden can be the sole person to choose a candidate to fill the Administrative and Finance Officer position required under legislation creating state oversight which led to the seating of the Budget Commission, so wrote City Solicitor Timothy Chapman in a legal opinion on the matter.
In a letter sent to Mr. Briden, Solicitor Chapman noted, “It is important to analyze R.I.G.L. § 45-9-15 as it clearly states that in the presence of a conflict with any other laws, charter or ordinances that the provisions of the following section of the statute will govern, and in essence, trump the authority of the Charter.”
In layman’s terms, Mr. Briden would not be broaching City Charter by making the selection. Legal counsel for State Director of Finance Rosemary Booth previously was under the same opinion.
“I thought it was a very thorough, well thought out opinion. I know he put a lot of time and work into it,” Mr. Briden, himself a past City Solicitor, said of Mr. Chapman’s effort.
“This is going to be my M.O. going forward,” Mr. Briden added of the process of seeking the thoughts of the solicitor. “I’m going to rely on Tim to guide me through these types of matters.”
Solicitor Chapman was responding to a request by Mr. Briden to offer some clarity on the subject, which has raised the ire of some in the city. Some observers believe the AFO should be approved by the entire City Council. Others see no need at all to hire an AFO, a position that shares several similarities with the City Manager’s job.
The solicitor’s reading of the legislation concurred with that of his counterparts at State Finance, which grants the “Chief Executive Officer,” whether elected by the general population or their colleagues on Council, the authority to chose the AFO.
Solicitor Chapman wrote, “The elected CEO, under R.I.G.L. § 45-9-2(5), means in cities and towns having a popularly elected CEO, the popularly elected CEO, and in cities and towns where there is no popularly elected CEO, the president of the city or town council. The City of East Providence falls into the latter category.”
The opinion of local counsel could accelerate the process of appointing an AFO. Director Gallogly, at the May 2 meeting of the reseated Budget Commission, said she would like to see an AFO in place in short order. The job has been posted and some interviews of prospective candidates have already taken place.
To read Solicitor Chapman’s opinion in its entirety click here...