Citing three violations of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) for failure to conduct meetings in a handicapped accessible location, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today filed a suit in Providence County Superior Court against the Manville Fire District.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Marcel Desmarais, claims the Fire District, despite previous findings and warnings by the Office of Attorney General, knowingly or willfully violated the OMA on multiple occasions by failing to hold meetings at handicapped accessible locations.
"It is inconceivable that any public body would be unaware of its obligations to conduct meetings at a location that is accessible to all its citizens, especially those with disabilities," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Had the issues set forth in the previous findings been addressed in a timely manner, it is quite probable that the Fire District would be in compliance and not subject to this lawsuit and possible fine."
The state argues that at the time of the Fire District's meetings on December 14, 2011, January 11, 2012, and February 8, 2012, the Manville Fire District was aware of its obligation to hold its meetings at a location accessible to individuals with physical handicaps. The state also argues that the Manville Fire District did not hold its meetings on those dates at locations accessible to individuals with physical handicaps.
The state is seeking the maximum fine of $5,000 in each of the three incidents the Fire District knowingly or willfully violated the OMA by failure to conduct its meetings at a location that was handicapped accessible.
The state is also seeking injunctive relief ordering the Manville Fire District hold all future meetings at a location that is handicapped accessible and declaring all actions taken in the cited meetings as null and void.
The Office of Attorney General had previously cited the Manville Fire District for violating the OMA when the Fire District failed to conduct its meeting at a handicapped accessible location in August and November of 2011.
"It is my first hope and priority that public bodies comply with our open government statutes. In this case, however, it is clear that the Manville Fire District refuses to comply with the OMA."