Senate confirms 2 new CRMC members

The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council will have an easier time meeting quorum requirements, thanks to two new appointments confirmed by the Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday.

The Senate’s unanimous confirmations of Kevin Flynn and Joseph Russolino fill two of four vacancies on the state’s coastal regulatory council. The Senate confirmations came swiftly and without discussion.

For months, the embattled agency has struggled to hold regular meetings – often canceling them at the last minute – because not enough members could attend to meet quorum requirements. The council is supposed to have 10 members, with a six-person quorum requirement, but for months, has had three or four open spots.

A meeting earlier this week was delayed for an hour because the sixth member of the council was stuck in traffic and the group could not begin its deliberations without him due to quorum rules.

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Gov. Daniel J McKee named Flynn and Russolino as his nominations to the group earlier this month, touting their experience in coastal, planning and local government topics.

Russolino, managing partner of Providence-based CPA firm Russolino & Young LTD., replaces 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. 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.

Vacancies are hardly the only problem facing the council, which has drawn mounting criticism for decisions that flout the recommendations of its expert staff, such as a 2020 decision granting a Block Island marina expansion (a move which was later overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court).

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.

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for the Rhode Island Current.