Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced that the Office of Attorney General has reached a settlement agreement with the Warwick Retirement Board for a willful or knowing violation of the Rhode Island Open Meetings Act (OMA) when the Board held its March 4, 2015 meeting on less than 48 hours notice, and when it discussed matters at its March 18, 2015 closed session meeting without providing an explanation as to how "premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest," as required by the OMA. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Warwick Retirement Board agreed to pay a $2,000 fine.
The Warwick Retirement Board acknowledged that it failed to post notice for its March 4, 2015 meeting within a minimum of 48 hours before the date of the meeting. Further, with respect to its March 18, 2015 executive session, the Retirement Board acknowledged that it failed to provide to the Attorney General an explanation as to how the premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest.
"Public bodies must provide the public with adequate notice of meetings and must conduct business in open sessions, unless otherwise exempted. These requirements are meant to ensure that the citizenry knows what its government is doing and how decisions may impact the greater community," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
The OMA requires that all public bodies provide written notice of their meetings within 48 hours of the meeting (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(b)). The notice shall include the date the notice was posted, the date, time, and place of the meeting, and a statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed.
The OMA further requires that "[a] meeting closed to the public shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempt from discussion at open meeting by § 42-46-5…No public body shall discuss in closed session any public matter which does not fall within the citations to § 42-46-5(a) referred to by the public body in voting to close the meeting, even if these discussions could otherwise be closed to the public under this chapter." R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-4. Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-5(a)(7), a public body may hold a meeting closed to discuss "[a] matter related to the question of the investment of public funds where the premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest. Public funds shall include any investment plan or matter related thereto, including but not limited to state lottery plans for new promotions."