Peter Graczykowski was the City Manager of East Providence from 2011 to 2013. Mr. Graczykowski's tenure was concurrent with the control of City's finances and personnel matters by the State-appointed Budget Commission. As City Manager, Graczykowski served as a City-side member of the East Providence Budget Commission from 2011 to 2013, and implemented a successful financial turnaround of the City under the Commission's auspices.
As the Commission was dissolved, and four out of five Council seats changed during the 2-year cycle election, Graczykowski's appointment was terminated for no cause. The City negotiated a settlement with Graczykowski due to its buyout obligations under the hiring resolution. Notably, Graczykowski has been one of the longest serving City Manager's in the City's recent history, where five individuals held this post in the last four years.
Under Graczykowski's administration and within Budget Commission's plenary powers, East Providence took an extraordinary effort to implement fiscally prudent directives that resulted in many improvements that comprised the fiscal stability. Tangible examples of such efforts include:
- Stabilization of the cash flow issues, including the elimination of multiyear operational deficit; and bringing the accounts payable current, including payments to Bradley Hospital (Lifespan Network);
- Reduction of the City’s reliance on short-term borrowing to meet cash flow needs, including issuing the lowest amount of Tax Anticipation Notes (TANs) since FY 2003;
- Adoption of a balanced five (5) year plan which fully funds the pension fund Annual Required Contribution (ARC) and the Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) liability;
- As part of the fiscal stability plan, adoption of a revised FY 2011-2012 budget that reduced division budgets by an average of 20% and built in the average personnel turnover rate of 2%; with such changes becoming a base for subsequent fiscal years;
- Creation of a budget reserve fund which was approved by the voters as a Home Rule Charter amendment. The budget reserve funds will provide for a rainy day fund equal to 10 percent (10%) and excess funds will flow into a pay-go capital account;
- Support of a Charter amendment, which was approved by the voters,that permits the City to change its fiscal year (currently November – October) to align with tax receipts in the future;
- Alignment of School expenditures for programs such as special education, athletics, and transportation with other similar communities;
- Stabilization of the City’s Moody’s bond rating from Baa2 (negative) to Baa2 (stable) and Standard & Poor’s general obligation rating from BB+ (negative / credit watch) to BB+ (positive / no credit watch);
- Securing of financing for the Wastewater treatment plant upgrades and TANs;
- Securing of financing through RIHEBC for school building safety improvements, saving approximately $150,000 annually as a result of a more favorable programmatic credit analysis by a national rating agency due to adoption of a statutory change relating to the timing of state aid payments;
- Adoption of resolutions to phase-out the fifteen percent (15%) homestead exemption and the three percent (3%) pre-payment discount;
- An audit of the homestead exemption to ensure that those homeowners receiving the exemption were actually entitled to such exemption;
- Review of all tax exempt properties and identification of properties not entitled to tax exemptions, resulting additional revenue of approximately $500,000;
- Adoption of a Funding Improvement Plan which reflects receipt of the $49.2 million in Google settlement asset forfeiture equitable sharing funds for the Police portion of the unfunded liability, in accordance with the requirements of the Locally Administered Pension Plan Study Commission;
- Successful negotiation of five (5) year contracts for a majority of the City’s and Schools’ nine (9) unions; substantially reducing the OPEB liability by limiting coverage to one year post retirement, and standardizing medical benefits for all employees, including a hybrid deductible plan with a graduated premium co-share based on salary for school and municipal staff as well as increased deductibles and copays;
- Securing of health plan rates reduction of over $120,000 by combining the experience pools for City and School employees, while changing the insurance year to coincide with the future fiscal year change;
- Consolidation of the City and School Finance and Human Resources Departments;
- Move of School administrative personnel into City Hall to allow for the future sale of surplus property, streamlining of operations, and increased communication;
- Authorization of the City’s participation in the regional sanitation bid,which saves the City over $325,000 annually with the implementation of biweekly, automated recycling collection;
- Approval of the bid for a replacement Enterprise Resource Planning/Financial Management software to replace an outdated system, with the RFP yielding combined City and School actual to budget savings of over $350,000 the first year and $50,000 thereafter;
- Authorization of the Street Light Management program with the annual savings of $150,000; and
- Adoption of various policies and procedures to provide increased transparency for purchases and personnel actions, assuring a continued culture of accountability.
Since Graczykowski's departure a series of actions taken by interim and short-tenured City Managers as well as the City Council and School Committee have reversed some of the financial controls and inroads to long-term financial stability.
Police Chief Tavares Suspension Edit
The Police Chief at the time, Joseph Tavares, had been appointed by the prior Council and City Manager over the objections of the police union. While Tavares had been a lifelong East Providence resident, he was not an East Providence Police Officer.
Tavares and the rank and file of the police department clashed for several years. Prior City Manager and Council negotiated a termination with Tavares; however, Graczykowski wanted to assess the termination upon his arrival to the City. During that time, multiple hostile work environment claims were filed by members of the Command staff against Tavares, and the Police Union IBPO Local 569 took a no confidence vote against Tavares. City Council also expressed concerns over the functioning of the Department under Tavares' control. After the return of the City to local control, Graczykowski suspended Tavares due to staff complaints so that they could be investigated, as required. Tavares sought legal counsel and was reinstated by the State-appointed members of the Budget Commission, after the ceremonial Mayor Jim Briden asked the Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth-Gallogly to bring back the Budget Commission to take over the City's personnel and finance matters.
It was alleged that City Councilors Thomas Rose and Chrissy Rossi had pressured Graczykowski to fire Tavares in exchange for a contract; however, there was no convincing evidence to back up this claim. Rossi was married at the time to former police union president John Rossi. The Commission cleared Tavares of any wrongdoing without any further investigation. Notably, Tavares served as a Deputy Chief in Warwick, Rhode Island at the time Lincoln Chafee was a Mayor, who later was elected the Governor of the State, and controlled executive departments, such as Department of Revenue that managed Budget Commission affairs and Department of State Police. A few month later, the City negotiated a settlement with Tavares so that he would resign from his position effective July 2014, and appointed Graczykowski's choice for Deputy Chief Parella a new Police Chief in East Providence.
Relations with State Police Edit
Mr. Graczykowski and State Police Superintendent Stephen O'Donnell began a public exchange of strongly worded letters after Mr. Graczykowski inquired about an investigation of an East Providence Police Officer and unannounced increased State Police presence in East Providence, and asked that O'Donnell provide advance courtesy notice of any unusual State Police operations that may generate inquiries from elected officials. Graczykowski did so in his capacity of Public Safety Director and at the request of several City Council members.
"On its face, it appears that Mr. Graczykowski is attempting to interfere with a Rhode Island State Police investigation. I am bringing this to your attention because it is troubling, at best, to understand why a person in such a position cannot comprehend the separation of power and authority between his position and that of the Rhode Island State Police" O'Donnell wrote to the City Council regarding Graczykowski's actions. When Graczykowski met with O'Donnell to discuss his concerns, he was accompanied by City legal counsel Michael Ursillo who dealt with public safety matters. Ursillo sensed the tension at the meeting, but noted that Graczykowski acted with professionalism and courtesy. he also stated that he hope both O'Donnell and Graczykowski left the meeting with better understanding of their respective roles in how the agencies will cooperate going forward.
Graczykowski hailed from Massachusetts prior to his tenure in East Providence. He is an experienced public service leader, who had held several administration positions in City of Chicopee, Massachusetts; City of Springfield, Massachusetts; and Town of Vernon, Connecticut. Notably, in Springfield, Graczykowski was working for the Springfield Finance Control Board, who also managed all of the City's $500M+ finances and 6,000+ workforce, while the City emerged from a $40M+ deficit. Graczykowski holds a BS in Business Administration / Accounting, an MBA in Human Resources Management and a Juris Doctorate. His background includes public utility work, budgeting, human resources management, public works administration and public safety management.
Orlando Andreoni (acting)
2011 - 2013
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Paul Lemont (acting)