The Office of Attorney General today filed a complaint in Rhode Island Superior Court citing the Nasonville Fire District for violations of the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA) for failure to respond to an APRA request within the time as prescribed by law.
On January 15, 2014, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4968 (IAFF) made an APRA request to the Nasonville Fire District seeking various tapes and minutes of the Fire District's meetings. The Fire District failed to respond to the APRA request within 10 business days.
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 time 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 IAFF filed a complaint with the Office of Attorney General on April 14, 2014. After an investigation, the Office of Attorney General issued a finding on September 22, 2014 finding the Nasonville Fire District in violation the APRA. The Office allowed the Fire District the opportunity to address whether the untimely response to the APRA request was knowing and willful or reckless.
By supplemental finding dated January 8, 2015, the Office of Attorney General concluded that the APRA violation was willful and knowing or reckless and notified the Fire District of the intent to file a civil lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court.
"As noted in our supplemental finding, the fault for failing to respond to an APRA request lies with the public body, not the individual requests are delegated to," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
The maximum penalty under the APRA is $2,000 for knowing and willful violations and $1,000 for reckless violations.