The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture met Wednesday, April 19, at the State House to consider five bills related to the CRMC. (Photo by Nancy Lavin/Rhode Island Current)
Gov. Dan McKee named his picks for two of four open spots on the state’s coastal regulatory council on Thursday.
The much-anticipated nominations comes amid mounting pressure from coastal advocates and some lawmakers to reform the troubled Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. Among other problems, the 10-member, politically appointed council has been forced to cancel a string of meetings over the last six months due to three vacancies that make it unable to achieve a quorum.
A fourth spot opened up as of Thursday, with member Lindsay McGovern resigning, according to Olivia DaRocha, a spokesperson for McKee’s office. McGovern’s resignation follows allegations from Save the Bay that she was no longer eligible to serve.
Neither of McKee’s new nominations fill McGovern’s seat, DaRocha said in an email.
Joseph Russolino, managing partner of Providence-based CPA firm Russolino & Young LTD., has been selected to replace former member Jerry Sahagian, who resigned in January. Russolino, who also serves on the Warwick Harbor Management Commission, will fill one of three council spots designated for residents from coastal communities.
McKee’s second pick, Kevin Flynn, fills a longstanding vacancy on the council, according to DaRocha. Flynn retired as the associate director of the Rhode Island Division of Planning in 2015, and serves as vice-chairman of the Warwick Planning Board as well as being a member of Common Cause Rhode Island.
“Protecting, preserving and developing the 420 plus miles of Rhode Island coastline is a top priority of my administration to ensure generations to come benefit from all coastal resources in a healthy ecosystem,” McKee said in a statement.
“I am confident that the expertise and experience of both Joseph Russolino and Kevin Flynn will help further the mission and work the council has already done.”
Topher Hamblett, advocacy director for Save the Bay, also praised the governor’s choice of Flynn as a “smart appointment.”
“He is a respected public servant who respects processes and rules,” Hamblett said in an interview on Thursday. “That’s important for a CRMC member.”
Indeed, the council has faced criticism for at times flouting its own rules, including an alleged back room deal struck in 2020 that would have allowed a Block Island marina expansion. The decision was later struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2022. More recently, in December, the council – against its staff recommendation – opted to let an offshore wind developer move ahead with its undersea cable burial plan without getting legislative approval.
Lawmakers have considered a slew of reforms to the controversial agency, the most dramatic of which would do away with the appointed council altogether and rely solely on the expert staff, similar to how the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management operates.
McKee’s picks must be approved by the Rhode Island Senate, which had not scheduled a vote on the nominations as of Thursday.
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