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East Providence 2013: Under New Management after Tumultuous Year

City sheds Budget Commission, rises to challenge violence.

East Providence bid farewell to its Budget Commission and City Manager in 2013, hired a new Fire Chief, weathered a challenge of its Police Chief and was shocked by a shooting at Onna Moniz-John Park.

Though the city's fiscal progress was shadowed by controversial politics and violence, positive news carried the day at the close of the year.
 
Commission leaves The city began the year on a positive financial note with the announcement of the East Providence Budget Commission's impending dissolution and a delegation of authority to a finance officer in late March. 

Commission back, Police Chief on leave Mayor James Briden called the Commission back weeks later, however, after a  challenge to East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares' leadership by City Manager Peter Grazykowski, who placed him on administrative leave April 17

Grazykowski began an investigation into allegations against the chief, which he did not elaborate on, saying the matter dealt with personnel issues. The allegations stemmed from complaints made by police officers against Tavares. 

Tavares cleared The East Providence Budget Commission returned to assess the allegations and an investigation conducted by the city human resources department working with a labor attorney. The Budget Commission ultimately ruled that not only had Tavares done nothing wrong, he had done nothing to warrant being placed on leave. The Budget Commission reinstated Tavares in June. 

Tavares' troubles weren't entirely over, however, as the East Providence Police Union voted no confidence in him in July. 

Advisor replaces Commission In September, Rosemary Booth Gallogly, the director of revenue for Rhode Island, appointed Paul Luba of Warwick as Municipal Finance Advisor, taking the place of the East Providence Budget Commission. Luba is the first finance advisor in Rhode Island under the Fiscal Stability Act, which authorizes the state's fiscal oversight of cities and towns. 

The city had operated under the fiscal authority of the Budget Commission since Dec. 11, 2011, when, according to a report from GoLocalProv.com, it faced a $7.2 million deficit in FY 2011. The move from Budget Commission to Fiscal Advisor is an incremental step in the city's return to fiscal autonomy. Luba will remain in place for five years. 

Fire Chief hired In one of their final acts, the Commission approved Acting Fire Chief Oscar Elmasian as fire chief Sept. 12. 

Police Chief sues City Tavares' struggle with Grazykowski continued as the Police Chief sued the city for discrimination, accusing the City Manager of "deep seeded animus" toward him in October.

Shooting in EP Park  Shocked East Providence neighbors learned a 22-year-old man had been shot in the chest Sept. 29 in Onna Moniz-John Park. Two brothers, Alexis Valdez, 18,  and Eric Valdez, 24, of 85 Williams Ave., were charged in the shooting. Following the shooting, a group of neighbors began meeting with Tavares and city officials to work on improving the safety and facilities at the park.

City Manager Fired The feud between City Manager and Police Chief was apparently settled in November, when the City Council fired Grazykowski and hired former City Manager Paul Lemont to replace him on an interim basis. 

In their final meeting of the year Dec. 17, the City Council praised Lemont's work to date, and delayed a search for a permanent City Manager to give him more time to work in East Providence. 
 
Snow-capped - The Blizzard of 2013 dumped 17 inches of snow on East Providence in February. This year, Mother Nature isn't wasting any time with the snow - The first snowstorm of 2013 is expected to bring 5-6 inches of snow on Jan. 2. 

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