Councilor says Barrington town manager withheld information from him

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha denies the accusation

By Josh Bickford
Posted 12/14/21

The meeting was just minutes from starting when council member Jacob Brier received some surprising news.

Mr. Brier said it was just prior to the start of the Dec. 6 council meeting when …

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Councilor says Barrington town manager withheld information from him

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha denies the accusation

Posted

The meeting was just minutes from starting when council member Jacob Brier received some surprising news.

Mr. Brier said it was just prior to the start of the Dec. 6 council meeting when Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha told him he had intentionally excluded him when sending out emails to council members. Mr. Brier said he sat at the council table in disbelief as Mr. Cunha turned and walked away.

A few minutes later, as Barrington Town Council President Michael Carroll discussed a special resolution honoring Mr. Cunha who will retire on Dec. 31 after five years as manager, Mr. Brier spoke out — he announced to everyone in the council chambers that he had just learned that Mr. Cunha had been excluding him when emailing out the weekly updates to the town council. Mr. Brier then said he would not be voting in favor of the resolution honoring Mr. Cunha.

Mr. Carroll and the other council members did not respond to Mr. Brier’s statement. Instead, Mr. Carroll proceeded to read aloud the resolution for Mr. Cunha, which included glowing praise for everything from renovating the library and hiring additional firefighters to his role in acquiring the former Carmelite monastery property on Watson Avenue.

In a followup interview, Mr. Brier said he was angry and disappointed by the town manager’s actions.

“His (Mr. Cunha’s) stated reason was that he did not like how I communicated the information to the public,” Mr. Brier wrote in an email to the Barrington Times. “I’d raised the concern of him not keeping the Council informed multiple times, privately and publicly, over the course of several months. All prior inquiries had been met with silence.”

Mr. Cunha offered a brief response when questioned about the situation. 

“All I can say is that Councilor Brier was NEVER excluded from any Town Council business e-mails,” Mr. Cunha wrote in an email to the Barrington Times. “There is some information that I share on my position on subjects that I choose to selectively share.”

Mr. Brier said that is not the case, and that Mr. Cunha had told him directly that he had chosen to exclude him from receiving his weekly updates to the council. 

Mr. Brier said he works hard to share information with the public and Mr. Cunha’s decision to withhold information from him “hurts the town as a whole.”

Mr. Brier added: “It is unfortunate that the people of Barrington were denied full representation because the outgoing Town Manager intentionally excluded one of their elected Council members from a substantial portion of town business.”

Mr. Brier said he has not been kept in the loop on a variety of town business issues. He offered a few examples, including the town manager’s decision to impose a vaccine mandate for municipal employees. Mr. Brier said he learned about that while reading the local newspaper. 

In his email to the Times, Mr. Brier wrote “I look forward to the new year, when Barrington will have a fresh start and we can all focus on working together to create an even better Barrington.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.