McGee resigns from leadership role on council

McGee resigns from leadership role on council

Vice president cites political differences, lack of teamwork

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Just one day after completing a contentious budget process that put town boards at odds for months, Thomas McGee has resigned from his leadership position on the Town Council, stepping down as vice president.

McGee, who was the top vote-getter among Council members during last November's election, says he still plans to play an active role in the town's legislative board, but he no longer wants his name attached to leadership.

"I don't agree with the direction of the council right now, and I don't want to be part of leadership that I don't agree with," he told The Breeze. "I'm not on board with the plan and politically I feel it's just not the way to go."

The full-time contractor and part-owner of Gator's Pub is currently serving his second term, and said that last time around, things were better.

"I had a great two years before this," he said. "I worked on special projects and everyone worked together."

Now, McGee said, he feels his skills are not being utilized, and his opinions are being dismissed.

"Whatever I bring to the table, they all agree it's a great idea and then throw it aside," McGee said. "It's almost like it's a done deal and no one is listening."

Before 2012's change in the council dynamic, McGee said he was frequently asked for input on town projects and looked to for expertise on issues related to his line of work.

Now, he says, his opinion is not valued. As an example, McGee cited the new Public Facilities Advisory Task Force, the board set to examine town buildings and assess their need for repair or re-appropriation. Councilor Edward Yazbak had suggested that with McGee's extensive construction knowledge, he would make a good candidate for the Task Force. Ultimately, Council President John Flaherty was nominated.

McGee said he also felt ignored during discussions on sewer solutions for Andrews Terrace, where residents have been ordered by the Department of Environmental Management to quell seepage into Branch River. The councilor offered a inexpensive solution, that he said would have involved only limited improvements in the town's infrastructure.

"They're not taking advantage of the things I can do. I showed him the way in Branch Village," McGee said of Flaherty. "But he decided he's going to be the liaison for sewer so it can be directed towards Branch Village development."

"John Flaherty and I do have a lot of differences when it comes to business."

Flaherty said Wednesday morning that he was aware of McGee's resignation.

"I spoke with Councilor McGee and I respect and will honor his decision," Flaherty said.

McGee was one of the two minority votes on a decision to appropriate significantly less to schools this year than requested by Supt. Stephen Lindberg. The school budget issue has dominated Council discourse for months, with members of the appointed Budget Committee butting heads with district officials. The council ultimately accepted many of the Budget Committee's recommendations, leaving the relationship between the two elected boards strained.

"I would have liked to see them at least get some money. Everyone else got something," said McGee of the vote.

He said he also disagreed with the decision to approve raises for two new people on the town's finance team.

"I'm a business guy and you don't hire someone to a new position and then immediately give them more money," he said.

McGee may have professional differences with council leadership, but he expressed downright anger at members of the School Committee.

"I'm disgusted with them for not showing up. Any time we try to get people together they send one guy and call him the 'liaison.' They were hired as a team," McGee said.

The councilor will have no change of duties as a result of the resignation, but felt it was necessary to remove the perception that he's giving the board his "stamp of approval."

"A lot of people voted for me, and they did it because I try to do what's right and use my common sense. But they're not letting me use my common sense."