Aerial view of Narragansett. A resident of the town may no longer be eligible to serve on the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council. (Getty photo)
The state’s beleaguered coastal regulatory agency is facing new scrutiny amid allegations one of its members no longer meets the requirements of the position she was appointed to fill.
Save the Bay sent a letter to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council Chairman Ray Coia on May 4 contending that Lindsay McGovern, one of seven members of the politically appointed council, is ineligible to serve. McGovern was appointed by Gov. Dan McKee in May 2021 as a designated representative from a coastal community with fewer than 25,000 residents who also holds an elected or appointed office in that municipality. At the time she was appointed, McGovern also served on the Narragansett Historical Cemetery Commission.
But according to Save the Bay, which quoted from an email from the Narragansett town clerk in its letter, McGovern hasn’t served on the cemetery commission since November, meaning she no longer meets the criteria for the position she was picked to fill on CRMC. The town’s online list of board and commission members, which the town says is updated regularly, shows McGovern is not part of any other appointed groups.
The allegations come amid ongoing criticism over the politically appointed council, both for controversial decisions as well as structural problems, including a string of canceled meetings over the last six months due to existing vacancies. If McGovern steps down from the council, that leaves just six of the 10 spots filled, meaning every member has to attend every meeting to fulfill quorum requirements.
McGovern, who works for Warwick-based renewable energy developer Revity Energy, did not return calls for comment. She did not attend the council’s meeting Tuesday night when it voted that the proposed Revolution Wind project met the state’s coastal regulations, though she was present for the first part of the hearing on April 24.
Whether McGovern has stepped down, or is stepping away temporarily amid the scrutiny, is unclear.
Coia declined to comment about the allegations when asked at a meeting Tuesday. Anthony DeSisto, the council’s attorney, acknowledged the questions about McGovern’s eligibility when pointing out that she was absent from the meeting, but did not say if the two were connected.
Without McGovern, the council’s vote on the Revolution Wind project was left to the six remaining members, one of whom abstained due to conflicts with her job for the city of Newport.
Topher Hamblett, advocacy director for Save the Bay, said Wednesday he has not heard back from Coia or the other lawmakers and elected officials, including McKee, who were copied on the letter.
But Hamblett maintains that McGovern can’t stay.
“Our position is that if she shows up at all, she’s doing so against the law,” he said. “the law is very clear she should not be continuing to serve on the council.”
Also unclear are any legal repercussions for decisions McGovern took part in as a member of the council since she lost her eligibility last November.
“It certainly raises some questions,” Hamblett said. He pointed out that the council has met, and voted, only a few times since existing vacancies have forced many meetings to be canceled.
McKee’s office did not return multiple inquiries for comment.
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