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PR 15-56 Anderson v. Little Compton School Department and School Committee Violation Found

The Complainant alleged the Little Compton School Department and/or the School Committee violated the APRA when it improperly denied his APRA request and when the denial did not indicate the procedures for appeal. The Complainant made an APRA request to the School Department seeking the 'written statement' read by School Committee Chairman at a School Committee meeting. The School Department indicated that the Complainant needed to contact the Chairman since the statement was not distributed to the School Department. While we have little doubt that the Chairman's notes/statement fell within the ambit of the APRA, see R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-2(4), no evidence/argument was presented that the Chairman, by himself, fell within the ambit of the APRA. See Robinson v. Malinoff, 770 A.2d 873 (R.I. 2001). In response to the APRA complaint, the Department and/or the Committee, despite its omission, attempted to assert R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-2(4)(K) as an exemption. The APRA provides that "[e]xcept for good cause shown, any reason not specifically set forth in the denial shall be deemed waived by the public body." R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-7(a). Here, the Department and/or the Committee has failed to address the "good cause shown," and we decline to speculate on whether "good cause" has been shown in the absence of the Department's and/or the Committee's argument. We conclude that "any reason not specifically set forth in the denial" has been waived. Accordingly, we do not consider whether the requested document would be exempt from public disclosure pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-2(4)(K). See Boss v. Woonsocket Superintendent's Office, PR 14-31. The Department and/or Committee also violated that APRA when our review of the denial letter found no avenue for appeal cited. See R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-7(a)(denial must indicate "the procedures for appealing the denial"). We directed the Department and/or Committee to provide the Complainant with a copy of the written statement within 10 business days of this finding.

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