Government

CRMC Chair Resigns; Gov. McKee Appoints His First Council Member

Newest member’s appointment doesn’t jibe with Rhode Island law

For more than two years Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) operated shorthanded, even as the agency’s website continued to list Lisette Gomes and Michelle Collie as board members.

The CRMC board is supposed to consist of 10 members, but Gomes resigned in 2019 after taking a municipal judge position, and Collie, the CEO of a chain of physical therapy centers who was appointed in 2017, noted at the beginning of 2020 that she would not be renewing her term.

A replacement for Collie was appointed in early May, as Gov. Dan McKee selected Lindsay P. McGovern to serve on the unpaid board that oversees waterfront development and coastal regulations. The governor’s office said she applied for the position.

Two vacancies, however, still remain on the powerful council, as Jennifer Cervenka, the board’s chair for the past four-plus years, submitted her letter of resignation to the governor July 21, writing, “Through our meaningful work over these years, I’ve presided over more than a hundred full Council and subcommittee meetings on matters of great importance to our State.”

The East Greenwich resident, the co-founder of a Providence law firm that specializes in environmental law, was appointed on June 15, 2017 and confirmed June 28, 2017. She was appointed by then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.

“We thank Jennifer Cervenka for her service as Chair of the Coastal Resources Management Council. We will review candidates to head the CRMC and continue its work to preserve, protect and develop Rhode Island’s coastal areas,” according to a statement from the governor’s office regarding her resignation.

Like the rest of the board’s appointed members, with the exception of it newest one, Cervenka’s term had expired, according to the the secretary of state’s website, which still lists Gomes as a member. State law allows CRMC board members to keep serving on an expired term until they are replaced. Keeping members on expired terms also avoids Senate confirmation.

McGovern, appointed May 7, is a Narragansett resident who “works in renewable energy,” according to the governor’s spokesperson. She doesn’t have a background in coastal issues.

Legislative changes made to CRMC appointments that went into effect two-plus years ago say that of the six municipality-based appointments, of which McGovern is one, three must be from a municipality with less than 25,000 people and three must be from a municipality with more than 25,000 people.

But with McGovern’s appointment that means four now represent municipalities with less than 25,000 people.

The paperwork on McGovern’s appointment, which includes little information about the appointee, has differing term expiration dates. The governor’s office notes her term expires Jan. 31, 2023. The secretary of state’s office says her term is expired (Jan. 31, 2021); it notes Jan. 31, 2023 on the department’s website.

On Jan. 1, 2019, legislative changes reduced the number of members on the CRMC board from 16 to 10, nine of whom are appointed by the governor. Here is a breakdown of the current members and how they are now appointed:

The director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, or her/his designee, serve ex officio. It’s typically Ron Gagnon, administrator of the agency’s Office of Customer & Technical Assistance.

Three members are from the general public, and at least one must live in one of Rhode Island’s 21 coastal municipalities. The governor nominates candidates and the Senate must confirm. They are three-year terms with no term limits.

On the current CRMC board, these are the public members, with information about where they live and when they were most recently appointed supplied by the secretary of state’s office:

Jerry Sahagian, a Saunderstown resident. He is a real-estate agent and a liquor store owner. He was most recently appointed on Feb. 14, 2017 and confirmed April 4, 2017. He was originally appointed to the board in 2002. His most recent term expired Jan. 31, 2020.

Joy Montanaro, a Cranston resident. She is a dental hygienist who served on the Cranston Zoning Board of Review for 14 years. She was most recently appointed on April 29, 2013 and confirmed July 1, 2013. Her most recent term expired Jan. 31, 2016.

With Cervenka’s recent resignation, there is a vacancy here.

Six members have to be appointed or elected officials of municipal government. Three have to be appointed or elected officials in a municipality with less than 25,000 people and three have to be appointed or elected officials in a municipality with more than 25,000 people. The governor nominates candidates and the Senate must confirm. At least five must be an appointed or elected official in a coastal municipality. They are three-year terms with no term limits.

For these six CRMC board members, state law mandates that they hold their seats “only so long as they remain in their elected or appointed office. Each municipal appointment shall cease if the appointed or elected official shall no longer hold or change the office which they held upon appointment.”

On the current board, this requirement applies to five members: Donald Gomez, Michael Hudner, Patricia Reynolds, Raymond Coia and McGovern. Here is a look at these members with information about where they live and when they were most recently appointed supplied by the secretary of state’s office:

Gomez represents a coastal community, Little Compton, with less than 25,000 residents. He is a retired Navy undersea warfare technician. He was most recently appointed on Jan. 31, 2014 and confirmed May 13, 2014. He was originally appointed to the board in 2007. His most recent term expired Jan. 31, 2020. He doesn’t appear to hold an elected or appointed position in Little Compton.

Hudner represents a coastal community, Little Compton, with less than 25,000 residents. He is the chairman and CEO of a Bermuda-based cargo shipping company. He was most recently appointed on Feb. 14, 2017 and confirmed April 4, 2017. He was originally appointed to the board in 2011. His most recent term expired Jan. 31, 2020. He doesn’t appear to hold an elected or appointed position in Little Compton.

Reynolds represents a coastal community, East Greenwich, with less than 25,000 residents. She is the director of planning and economic development for the city of Newport. She was most recently appointed May 10, 2016 and confirmed June 16, 2016. Her most recent term expired Jan. 31, 2020. She doesn’t appear to hold an elected or appointed position in East Greenwich.

McGovern, as a Narragansett resident, represents a municipality with less than 25,000 residents. She was appointed to the town’s Historical Cemetery Commission in November 2019 and her term on the commission expires Nov. 1, 2022. McGovern is the vice-president of Revity Energy, a Warwick-based company that “develops, finances, constructs, and operates renewable energy generation facilities.” It was founded by the Palumbo family. McGovern is the daughter of the company’s president, Ralph Palumbo.

Revity Energy shares the same Warwick address with Southern Sky Renewable Energy RI and Solar Sky Ventures.

According to the Revity Energy website, McGovern earned her master’s in business administration and holds a bachelor of science in accountancy. Her resume, supplied to ecoRI News by the governor’s office, notes she has been a certified public accountant since 2009.

Coia, the council’s vice-chair, represents a coastal community, Cranston, with more than 25,000 residents. He is an administrator at the New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund. He was mostly recently appointed on Feb. 14, 2017 and confirmed April 4, 2017. The board’s vice chair was originally appointed in 2003. His most recent term expired Jan. 31, 2020. He doesn’t appear to hold an elected or appointed position in Cranston.

A vacancy remains here.

Categories

Join the Discussion

View Comments

Recent Comments

  1. Incredible if true that many of these members cannot legally serve on the Commission – which means that all of the decision the Baird makes can be challenged in court.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.

Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.

cookie

We use cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalized content. View Cookie Settings