CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. —
Central Falls is Rhode Island’s smallest city and also one of its poorest. Boarded up homes line many streets and one-quarter of the city’s families live below the poverty line.
“The people are not getting better. Five years of tax increases, people who make $14,000 to $20,000 a year,” said state Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, D-Central Falls.
Some at City Hall make more money than that in a month.
Chief of Staff Gayle Corrigan has essentially replaced the mayor as the executive in charge and answers directly to state-appointed receiver Robert Flanders.
Corrigan owns Municipal Management Solutions, a company aimed at righting the city’s sinking ship. For her services, she’s paid $100 an hour. Her deputy gets $60 an hour. That’s roughly $26,000 a month and more than $300,000 a year. All of it comes from the coffers of Central Falls.
“That’s ridiculous. It’s not right when we’re not financially doing great in this city,” said Luis Lubo, a Central Falls resident.
“No top employee in the city was ever paid that kind of money in one year. In one year. That to me is sinful,” Crowley said.
Corrigan started Municipal Management Solutions in April 2010. Attorney Henry Kates filed the paperwork. Just three weeks later she landed her first contract, a lucrative one with Central Falls.
Before that, Corrigan was the chief financial officer of Senesco Marine, a ship and tug boat building company in North Kingstown.
As CFO, her resume says she led a turnaround of the company and improved employee morale. What’s missing is why she left in 2010, and that’s because she was fired.
NBC 10 obtained a document from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. In it, Senesco claims its CFO was pocketing company cash in a labor scheme.
“Gayle Corrigan was terminated for cause as a result of violating her fiduciary duties to Senesco Marine, LLC while an officer of the company. Unbeknownst to Senesco, Gayle Corrigan had incorporated and was surreptitiously running a staff leasing company which provided contract labor to Senesco, from which she was profiting,” the document says.
In short, sources said she started her own company while still CFO of Senesco, approving checks essentially written to herself.
NBC 10 has learned that company was Perennial International Inc., again incorporated by Kates, the same lawyer who incorporated her current company.
Sources said Corrigan’s mother, Patricia, who was also a Senesco employee, was also fired after company officials accused her of forging her daughter’s time records.
Both left the shipbuilder and months later started working at Central Falls City Hall.
Corrigan skipped our scheduled interview and left no reason why.
Flanders did agree to an interview. NBC 10 asked if he knew that Corrigan was fired from Senesco Marine and why.
“I know now that she was (fired), but I didn’t know that when I engaged her. I knew that she had left the job. In fact, I had met Miss Corrigan when she was working at Senesco. I was an attorney for Senesco. I was impressed with her abilities then, as I am now,” Flanders said. “My understanding is that there was no company policy against her doing that, that what she did in fact saved the company money.”
Flanders said he could see how some people would question why she’s involved in municipal government based on her past.
“Sure. Look, everybody can question what they want, but I think she’s done quite a good job. I think she has excellent financial and management skills. I have no questions about her integrity or competence,” Flanders said.
State Rep. Agostinho Silva, D-Central Falls, said Friday that he wants a meeting with the Central Falls delegation and Gov. Lincoln Chafee to discuss Corrigan.
“The fact that someone in such a high position of power in the receivership team may have been fired from her prior job because of a secret profiting scheme is a huge cause for concern. My constituents deserve answers, and that’s why I am requesting a meeting with the governor to sort this out,” Silva said in a statement.
NBC 10 also spent time digging into payroll records, which show connected family and friends working in the bankrupt city.