SMITHFIELD – Two motions were proposed at Tuesday’s Smithfield Town Council meeting regarding a request for proposals for a consultant to work with the Smithfield Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, and neither received a second to move forward.

Town Manager Randy Rossi introduced the agenda item, which would put out a request for proposals for a consultant to work with the task force to guide forums, facilitate the needs of the community, and put together a report to help the town move forward.

Rossi said the consultant would help get a “full 360 look at what’s going on in town.” He said the cost of the consultant could range from $20,000 to $30,000, and would most likely be paid for through outside organizations, such as the Rhode Island Foundation.

Council President Suzy Alba summarized the consultant proposal as an outside expert who would help the community with current research and legal experience.

Councilor Michael Lawton, who is the council liaison to the task force, made a motion to move forward with the request for proposals, stating that looking for potential consultants does not tie the town into a contract.

With councilor Sean Kilduff absent from the meeting, only Councilors David Tikoian or Angelica Bovis could second the motion to take a formal vote. Both declined.

Instead, Tikoian presented information from a member of a similar board in Narragansett, formed around the same time as Smithfield’s task force. He said that board was able to employ a volunteer consultant utilizing one of the many members of diversity and equity task forces around the state.

For example, Capt. Kenneth Jones of the Rhode Island State Police and officer in charge of the Community, Diversity and Equity Unit offered services to Smithfield free of charge, saying he did not feel a consultant was necessary.

“Again, I applauded the creation of the task force and its mission, all I’m asking is let’s not rush it to an RFP. Let’s conduct our own due diligence to see if those resources could be available to the town at no cost,” Tikoian said.

Tikoian made a motion to table the request, but did not receive a second.

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Lawton said his biggest concern is that the committee is formed and does not know what direction to move forward in. He asked that any volunteer consultant that Tikoian can speak with attend the next meeting, to which Tikoian responded affirmatively.

Rossi said the town is open to anything that helps the task force, and he just wishes to keep things moving.

“This thing is moving pretty quickly in terms of government, right. It’s moving along pretty quickly,” Tikoain said, adding that it’s best to do due diligence and do appropriate research.

Rossi said the town is open to anything that helps the task force. Tikoian mentioned that a public forum with more than 100 residents in attendance was held virtually in February following an incident in January where racial and derogatory words and images were found in a public park.

A few months later, after those juveniles responsible were caught, the town approved creating a task force, to which 11 members were elected in August. The group met several times and decided to bring the request for proposals before the council, said Lawton.

Alba said it is up to the council if the request for proposals will return for the next agenda.

(1) comment


I was disappointed to learn of the Smithfield town council’s decision to delay putting out an RFP for the DEI taskforce. I have multiple concerns about a volunteer. First, there is very little accountability in that situation. Likely no performance goals or metrics. Second, volunteers can quit at any time, leaving a process (if one has begun) in the lurch and potentially making it challenging to find someone else either to continue to work in the same vein and/or making it difficult for them to do so. Third, what authority/power would a volunteer have around the process versus a paid consultant? Fourth, the potential for a process to get started and then derailed for whatever reason, resulting in lost momentum and starting over again, seems much higher than with a paid consultant. All of these things could really jeopardize the task force and what it is trying to do, especially since we are right at the beginning. In my opinion if the town is serious about doing this work relying on a volunteer just seems to invite significantly higher potential for delay, confusion and back-tracking/starting over again. Especially since no money is coming from the town budget.

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