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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Republican Senate candidate Flanders in the middle of another ethics horror show

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

Whether or not Gayle Corrigan’s tenure as East Greenwich town manager is benefiting Bob Flanders’ community, it’s definitely benefiting his law firm. 

The town paid Whelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder & Siket $104,518 for services through November.

Flanders, an East Greenwich Republican who is currently running for the US Senate seat held by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, is a partner in the law firm known for taking on public sector unions around Rhode Island. 

He’s also a close associate of Corrigan’s, and told this reporter that he and East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki discussed bringing Corrigan to East Greenwich prior to the tangled web of willful Open Meetings Act violations and firings that led to her becoming the named town manager.

“Gayle was someone we did talk about,” Flanders told me in early June. “We talked about her skill set and what she can bring to the table. We talked about doing some sort of analysis.”

His law firm did not work for East Greenwich prior to Corrigan becoming town manager.

It’s unclear exactly when Whelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder & Siket attorney Tim Cavazza began representing East Greenwich. 

In response to an Access to Public Records Act request for his contract, Town Clerk Leah Carney wrote, “The engagement agreement is not a public record under RIGL 38-2- 2 ( 4) ( A) (I) (a).” This provision of the state public records law exempts “All records relating to a client/attorney relationship” from public review.

Wheelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder & Siket billed the town $72,547.05 for “labor” and $16,830 for work done on the Jim Perry lawsuit. D’Agostino argued the case for the town in court. 

The remaining $15,141 was billed for grievances, injury claims, and “school department matters.”

Megan Siket, a partner with the law firm, is also representing East Greenwich as the ACLU of Rhode Island questions the town’s recently-enacted employee social media policy

This, and other work, were done after the November billing. East Greenwich also contracts Dave D’Agostino for $11,000 a month as its town solicitor.

Neither Flanders, Corrigan, or Cienki could not be reached for comment. Flanders has declined recent opportunities to discuss Corrigan’s tenure in East Greenwich.

Cienki donated $1,000 to Flanders’ congressional campaign on June 18, one day before the East Greenwich Town Council first appointed Corrigan as town manager in an executive session vote that would eventually be nullified by the Jim Perry lawsuit that employed Flanders’ law firm.

Corrigan donated $5,400 to Flanders’ campaign in September, the maximum amount allowable under federal law. 

On the same day, Linda Dykeman also donated $5,400 to Flanders’ campaign. Dykeman worked with Corrigan before she came to East Greenwich, and became the town finance director shortly after Corrigan became the town manager, a move that is currently under investigation by the state Ethics Commission.

Flanders and Corrigan first met when they both worked for Senesco. “We go back at least ten years,” he told me in June. “She worked for a client of mine.” 

Corrigan was fired from Senseco for “surreptitiously running a staff leasing company which provided contract labor to Senesco, from which she was profiting,” according to an investigative report from NBC 10 in 2012.

Flanders made Corrigan his chief of staff when he was the receiver in Central Falls. Together they made more than $1 million seeing Central Falls through its bankruptcy process, according to documents provided by the city.

Bob Plain  is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.