COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Councilors in Coventry voted to suspend the town manager Tuesday, accusing him of a “pattern of negligence” that has proved “detrimental to the discipline, efficiency and effectiveness” of the administration.

The Coventry Town Council voted 4-1 to suspend Benjamin Marchant with pay pending the outcome of an investigation by the town solicitor into his handling of the town’s finances since he took office last April.

The councilors claim that, throughout his tenure, Marchant has repeatedly failed to adequately direct and supervise town administration, submit timely financial reports and ensure that all of the provisions listed in the town’s charter are properly executed.

Marchant is also accused of failing to advise councilors of the town’s financial needs.

“Make no mistake about it, he has made a career’s worth of errors,” Councilor Jonathan Pascua said. “When a team is failing, you replace the coach.”

Council President Hillary Lima described Marchant’s leadership as a “five-alarm fire.”

“It shouldn’t be a miracle that basic things get done,” she said. “Coventry should expect better because Coventry deserves better. We can’t afford to waste any more time waiting.”

Marchant defended himself against the council’s accusations, arguing that he inherited a town with “serious financial struggles.”

“I recognized a great opportunity where I felt I could help this community and solve some real big problems and make a real difference,” Marchant said. “What I found when I got here were many controversial and very expensive challenges.”

Marchant said those challenges included litigation over Johnson’s Pond, an underfunded police pension program and a poorly run sewage program.

“Coventry is not the sleepy little town everyone thinks it is,” he said. “It has big city problems that have no easy or cheap solutions.”

Marchant went on to list a series of assessments and studies he’s conducted at the request of the council.

Through one financial health assessment, Marchant said he discovered the town has accumulated roughly $250 million in debt.

“I’ve done all that I’ve been asked to do and more,” Marchant said. “However, the recommendations coming from all of these studies indicate that the work to be done comes with a demand for resources — time, people and money — which Coventry does not have.”

Marchant accused the council of being “unwilling to make tough decisions,” adding that councilors have voted time and time again to table important issues.

Councilor Jennifer Ludwig, who voted against suspending Marchant, argued that now is not the time for a change in leadership, especially since the finance director and deputy resigned last week.

“The town is not in a good position to change all of the leadership at one time,” Ludwig said. “It is not a smart move.”

Those who attended Tuesday night’s meeting applauded the council’s decision immediately following the vote.

But Lima responded by telling everyone “there’s nothing to applaud about.”

“This is a dark day for Coventry and it’s time to move forward,” she said. “But we are better than that.”

Marchant was ordered to cease all town manager duties, surrender his town vehicle and return his office keys.

The council also voted unanimously to appoint Edward Warzycha, Coventry’s retired administrative officer, as interim town manager.