Commission returns powers to East Providence administrators, but continues oversight for now
EAST PROVIDENCE — Metaphorically speaking, the Budget Commission has departed East Providence's house, but has kept a copy of the key just in case it needs to get back inside some time in the future.
After some 15 months in charge of the city's financial and administrative affairs, the Budget Commission held its final meeting in charge Thursday, March 28, in Room 306 of City Hall.
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, who signed the Commission legislation into law, and Rhode Island Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly, whose office was in charge of implementing the statute, were in attendance to recognize the efforts of the Commission members — Stephen Bannon, Diane Brennan, Michael O'Keefe, East Providence City Manager Peter Graczykowski and East Providence City Council President James Briden. Gov. Chafee also recognized Bruce Rogers, the former City Council President, in absentia for his role on the Commission for most of its run.
And while the Commission signed off on its daily oversight of East Providence, Mrs. Gallogly, as is written in the legislation known as the "Fiscal Stability Act," did not entirely dissolve the five-member body.
To do so, again according to the Fiscal Stability Act, an Administrative and Financial Officer (AFO) would have had to been seated at Thursday's meeting. The position is as of yet unfilled. The AFO is part of the state's five-year continued oversight following the conclusion of the Budget Commission's work.
"Obviously we're looking to have some continued oversight for the remainder of the five-year term as written in the statute," Mrs. Gallogly said upon the meeting's completion. "We've posted the AFO position, we've received a number of applications, but we have not started the interview process. We're working with the city to solve some of the remaining issues. I would think in the next month or so we'll have it figured out."
As reported earlier Thursday by The East Providence Post at eastbayri.com, state and local officers are attempting to iron out the details of the AFO position, which shares several similarities with the profile of the City Manager.
Sources told The Post three scenarios are likely to play out: 1. Current City Manager Graczykowski will receive a contract that will include language authorizing him as the AFO; 2. Mr. Graczykowski will be relieved of his duties and an AFO/City Manager will be hired in consultation with the State Department of Revenue; or 3. Mr. Graczykowski will remain as City Manager and an AFO will be hired on a limited basis and at a significantly reduced salary.
Mrs. Gallogly noted her office had received 12 resumes of prospective applicants for the position, but did not offer any other specifics on the topic.
"We've heard from some very impressive candidates," she added. "We're working with the city and the governor's office is also involved. Hopefully we'll have everything figured out shortly."
With no AFO seated, Mrs. Gallogly did acknowledge while the Commission has turned over control of the city back to the respective parties — the City Manager, City Council and School Committee — it will remain seated, though will not have any direct oversight unless the governor, the General Assembly or the Department of Revenue deem it necessary.
"The Commission will be dissolved when I determine it is no longer needed. I'm not saying that in a boastful manner, but it's how the legislation is written," Mrs. Gallogly added. "The Commission has turned back all of its power to the city and it will no longer meet unless we feel there is a reason for them to meet."
If the Commission were to meet again, it would do so without Mr. O'Keefe, the boisterous former chairman. Mr. O'Keefe resigned from the Commission effective as of Thursday. He will be replaced by Christy Healey, a state employee and city native who has been a member of the Budget Commission staff since its inception in December of 2011.
Mrs. Healey will remain in regular contact with East Providence administrators, working on the behalf of the Department of Revenue and the state while the AFO situation is determined.