The Office of Attorney General filed a complaint in Rhode Island Superior Court citing the Town of North Kingstown for a reckless and/or willing and knowing violation of the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) when the Town failed to respond in a timely manner in accordance with APRA to a March 15, 2017 APRA request filed by William Mudge.
In a previously released finding, Mudge v. Town of North Kingstown, PR 17-44, the Office of Attorney General found that the Town of North Kingstown violated the APRA when it failed to timely respond to the March 15 APRA request.
Under the APRA, a public body has 10 business days to respond to a request for documents (R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-7). If the public body denies the request, a written response detailing the specific reasons for the denial shall be sent within those 10 business days to the person or entity making the request (R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-7(a)). If no response is sent within 10 business days, the lack of response will be deemed a denial (R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-7(b)}. If, for good cause, the public body cannot comply with a records request within 10 business days, then the public body may extend the period an additional 20 business days, for a total of 30 business days (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 38-2-7(a) and 38-2-3(e)).
The investigation into the APRA complaint revealed that the Town of North Kingstown failed to respond to the APRA request within ten (10) business days. In fact, the Town responded to the APRA request only after Mr. Mudge filed an APRA complaint with the Department of Attorney General.
As noted in the supplemental finding issued today, PR 17-44B, the Office of Attorney General has determined that based on the evidence, the Town's actions constituted a "reckless" or a "willful and knowing" violation of APRA, subjecting the Town to monetary fines.
"The Town of North Kingstown failed in its statutory obligation to be responsive to the APRA request, and its actions have opened the Town to financial liability," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
A public body found to be in reckless violation of APRA may face a maximum civil fine of $1,000 per violation, as compared to the willful and knowing violation, which is subject to a maximum civil fine of $2,000 per violation.