East Providence Budget Commission declines approval of new city solicitors
EAST PROVIDENCE — At its bi-weekly meeting Thursday afternoon, Jan. 17, and apart from other moves made, the East Providence Budget Commission refused to approve the appointments of three city solicitors pending the review of proposals to consolidate its legal representation.
Tim Chapman, as city solicitor, along with Bob Craven and Greg Dias, as assistants, were appointed and sworn into office by the newly-seated City Council on Monday, Dec. 3. However, they were done so pending a Request for Proposal (RFP) bid authorized by the Budget Commission.
Thursday, the Commission approved all of the other appointments made on Dec. 3, but did not want to make a difficult situation that much more messy by formally seating Messrs. Chapman, Craven and Dias.
"They could be appointed for 30 days or forever," said Commission member Michael O'Keefe. "We won't know that until we resolve the RFP."
The RFP process, which could possibly combine legal matters of the city as a whole and the school department, has taken longer than expected.
Former City Solicitor Orlando Andreoni has remained in the position since inauguration night, Dec. 3. But depending on interpretations of the City Charter, he could be doing so without authorization and the city could be left susceptible if it faced any new actions.
Commission Chairman Diane Brennan as well as Commission member and City Council President/Mayor Jim Briden seemed most concerned about the chance the city could be placed in a difficult predicament.
Mr. O'Keefe along with Commission member and City Manager Peter Graczykowski seemed to be of the position that because of the transition period the new solicitors, save for hold-over Mr. Craven, likely wouldn't be equipped to deal with any matters the city could face in the next few weeks.
Mr. O'Keefe and Mr. Graczykowski were also concerned with the stipends of the positions. As it is currently budgeted, the city solicitor is an East Providence employee with a yearly salary of $54,000 and a total package, benefits included, of some $70,500.
Mr. Craven is currently paid on a $4,000 monthly retainer plus a rate of $142.50 per hour for "non-municpal court and prosecution work." The other assistant solicitor, a position held by Gina DiCenso prior to Dec. 3, was being paid only at a rate of $142.50 per hour. It should be noted, the Commission confirmed the firms of both Mr. Craven and Ms. DiCenso are among those who applied for the consolidated legal position per the RFP.
In the end, it was decided the City Council should take up the matter of compensation and reappointment of Messrs. Chapman, Craven and Dias at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22. A subcommittee of Commission members and associates is slated to review the RFP responses sometime next week.
A final decision on the matter, whether to consolidate or to approve the Council's appointments, is expected to be made at the next Budget Commission meeting on Thursday, Jan. 31.
New H.R. director
The Commission approved a recommendation of Mr. Graczykowski and Interim School Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes to hire Kathleen Waterbury as the new consolidated city Human Resources director. Ms. Waterbury replaces Heather Martino, a state employee on loan to the Budget Commission for the last several months.
Ms. Waterbury is a resident of Seekonk. According to the recommendation, she has over 16 years of H.R. management experience in both the public and private sectors. She holds degrees in Organizational Development and Human Resource Management. The position comes at a starting yearly salary of $95,000. The consolidated position replaces separate H.R. directors on the school and city sides that paid a combined $160,000 per year.
Other personnel moves
The Commission authorized Mr. Graczykowski and Public Works Director Steve Coutu to fill the vacant Highway Division superintendent position.
The Commission tabled a reorganization proposal by City Finance Director Malcolm Moore, pending more information. The Commission unanimously agreed a deputy finance director or a definitive "No. 2" to Mr. Moore must work in the department. Mr. Moore said he was mainly concerned with hiring someone to fill the so-called "Senior Accountant" position.
The Commission accepted the resignations and appointments offered by Dr. DeGoes in the School Department, including those of the head and assistant swim coaches at East Providence High School. The Commission and the School Committee were both upset about the process of hiring the coaches.
School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro, who is a non-voting contributor to the Commission, said Thursday the "proper conversations have been had" with those administrators who are charged with following hiring practices.