East Providence City Councilors collide, Rossi files complaint against Briden over Commission request
EAST PROVIDENCE — The next shoe in what is becoming a burgeoning saga over the status of East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares dropped earlier this week when Ward 4 City Councilman Chrissy Rossi filed a formal complaint with the police department against Ward 1 Council President James Briden.
The East Providence Post and eastbayri.com learned of the complaint late Tuesday evening, April 23, and confirmed its existence through multiple sources Wednesday morning, April 24. Members of the East Providence Police Department would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the complaint.
The basis for Mrs. Rossi's complaint against Mr. Briden is her belief that he breached the City Charter by asking for State Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly to consider reinstating the Budget Commission to review all matters pertaining to personnel.
"As one Council Member of the City of East Providence, it is my position that Rosemary Booth Gallogly, the Director of Finance for the State of R.I., has been baited into using the power of the State of Rhode Island to control personnel matters in the City of East Providence," Mrs. Rossi wrote Wednesday in an email exchange with The Post.
"At this time, the city’s well qualified Human Resources Director is scrutinizing allegations through the proper channels. It is well within the purview of the HR Director of any corporation or municipality to investigate allegations of scandalous mismanagement and a thorough investigation cannot be properly conducted with the alleged wrongdoer controlling the outcome by remaining at his/her post."
Section 2-12 of the Charter reads the City Council shall not be involved in personnel decisions. According to Mrs. Rossi's rationale, Mr. Briden injected himself into personnel matters by requesting the state reconvene the Commission.
"By East Providence Charter, the City Manager has the full authority to relieve an employee of their duties pending an investigation as a disciplinary matter. Disciplinary matters are covered in 45-9-6 of the RI State Law regarding budget commissions," Mrs. Rossi continued. "The law clearly shows that the City Manager is well within his rights even by budget commission standards. I applaud the HR Director and City Manager for taking the position they have in the investigation process. The State of Rhode Island has openly abused it’s authority by getting involved with a personnel matter in the City of East Providence.
"It is also my position that by invoking the Budget Commission with the direct intent to circumvent the City Manager’s authority to handle personnel matters, James Briden has violated section 2-12 of the Charter of the City of East Providence."
Asked specifically if he breached City Charter, Mr. Briden, an attorney and past East Providence City Solicitor, offered up an emphatic "no." He also termed Mrs. Rossi's complaint "frivolous" in nature.
In recapping the sequence of events, Mr. Briden said he had no prior knowledge of the decision by City Manager Peter Graczykowski to place Chief Tavares on administrative leave, April 15, pending an investigation of outstanding complaints made him from within his department.
Mr. Graczykowski has gone on record stating he hopes the investigation into the Chief, being conducted by City Human Resources Director Kathleen Waterbury, will be concluded in a timely manner.
"I do not interfere with any personnel matters. It's a provision in the charter that I take very seriously," Mr. Briden explained. "I stay very far away from anything related to personnel. In the case of the Chief I wasn't made away of the City Manager's decision until after the fact."
On reaching out to the state to reconvene the Budget Commission, of which he is a member as Council President, Mr. Briden said, "The decision ultimately for the Commission to be reinstated was not mine. It is not within my powers when or if the delegation of powers can and would be rescinded. That is solely up to the Director of Revenue."
Mrs. Rossi, as expected, sees Mr. Briden's actions a bit differently.
"Ms. Gallogly delegated personnel authority back to the city on March 28, 2013 which reverted us back to home rule. It is not for the council to interfere with the City Manager’s decisions on discipline or his authority to hire or fire," Mrs. Rossi wrote.
"This is a budget commission, not a personnel board. I am shocked that Ms. Gallogly would put her reputation on the line involving the State in municipal personnel matters and I am livid that Mr. Briden has gone behind everyone's back and reinstated the budget commission. We should not be running to the State for cover every time we have a difference of opinion with the City Manager. That would be like if Dad says no, go ask Mom."
Mr. Briden said Mrs. Rossi did not speak with him in advance of her filing the complaint and that he was disappointed by her move.
"I feel deeply hurt by this," Mr. Briden said. "I'm still relatively new to electoral politics, but I would have never expected her to do something like this. It's unfortunate."
Mrs. Rossi concluded, "This matter will be investigated by local authorities and play out legally through municipal court as it is a local ordinance infraction that I am citing. Since the 1850’s, politicians have always quoted 2-12 in reference to non-interference with personnel matters however, this is the first time anyone has ever acted on it. I feel my rights as a council member have been violated and that is why I have chosen to file the complaint. There is no precedent to follow other than idle threats from former politicians. I feel I am right."