NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The Narragansett Town Council has picked a top official from the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and a former South Kingstown police officer to become the next permanent town manager.
In a meeting lasting about 30 minutes Monday, the council voted unanimously to appoint James R. Tierney, the chief of operations for RIPTA since 2014, as manager and approve an employment contract.
Tierney’s employment will begin Sept. 9, with a formal swearing-in scheduled for the Sept. 16 council meeting.
The council also voted to waive Tierney’s participation in the town’s pension plan. He instead will be enrolled in a 401(k)-style voluntary deferred compensation program.
Tierney’s contract is for a three-year term, with an option to extend the contract. He will be paid a base salary of $125,000, with a $4,800 annual vehicle allowance.
Also, he will be provided with four weeks of paid vacation per year, but the agreement stipulates that he may only take one week of vacation between Memorial Day and Labor Day, because of the busy summer season. He also must remain “available for town service” during Independence Day, the Blessing of the Fleet and Labor Day.
Tierney succeeds acting Town Manager Sean Corrigan, the town’s chief of police, who stepped into the role in February when former manager James Manni departed to become head of the Rhode Island State Police. Manni had been a retired state police officer.
Tierney, who has been a town resident for 27 years, was present for the meeting and also remained afterward for introductions to residents and town officials.
He thanked Corrigan and the council, and said it was important to him that the council’s vote to hire him was unanimous.
“I don’t think it’s lost on the people of Narragansett,” he said. “The council has come together and made a decision about the future of the town.”
He also pledged to treat everyone in the community with courtesy, professionalism and respect.
“The only things I ask in return from residents of the community and the council is the same,” he said. “I’m a big fan of participatory government. When people come up and speak at meetings, I think that’s great. They’re informed, they have passion.”
He brings to the position 36 years of experience, including as inspector general for the City of New York’s Department of Investigation from 2011 to 2013. In that role, he was responsible for “investigating corruption, fraud, wrongdoing, gross mismanagement and/or waste involving city agencies,” according to his resume. He oversaw a team of 40 investigators that had oversight of many of the largest agencies in New York City.
He began his 28 years with the South Kingstown police as a patrolman and worked his way through the department to become assistant patrol commander, prosecution division commander, head of the detectives division and lastly a patrol commander, from 2009 to 2011. As a patrolman, he received a commendation for thwarting an armed home invasion where all of the suspects were arrested and convicted.
In his current role at RIPTA, Tierney ensures the smooth operation of the authority’s transportation and operational programs. Among his responsibilities are oversight of fixed routes, communications, vehicle maintenance and buildings and grounds. The combined budgets of the departments he supervises exceed $93 million and employ more than 700 people.
The council reviewed applications and interviewed candidates entirely in executive session, which is closed to the public. Councilors reviewed 26 applications and interviewed five finalists, Council President Matthew Mannix said.
“James Tierney stood out among the finalists,” Mannix said, citing Tierney’s resume.
“That operational experience will prepare him for his role as town manager, overseeing several departments and making sure we provide quality services to Narragansett residents.”
The 4-0 vote to appoint Tierney was a rare instance of unity from a council that’s been fractured during votes about the town’s plans to either renovate the former Belmont Market building into a new library or sell it, as three of the five councilors voted to do in January.
Council member Patrick Murray was unable to attend the meeting, but provided a written statement in support of hiring Tierney, which Council member Jesse Pugh read into the record.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Tierney for many years, and he is an outstanding person of good character,” Murray wrote.
Council Pro Tempore Jill Lawler said the council wanted to speak as “one voice” in hiring a new manager.
“How seldom does that happen with us,” she said. “We as a body of five thought Jim would be the best person to help bring back a town that’s so divided.”
Talking about the selection process, Pugh said he was surprised to learn that the town charter and council rules don’t specify how a town manager should be hired.
“Even posting the position is not a requirement,” he said, through the town did post it. Pugh said he’d support charter reforms in the future to outline the process for hiring a manager.