Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced that the Office of Attorney General has entered into separate agreements with the Nasonville Fire District and the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) to settle claims each had violated the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) for failing to respond to APRA requests within the timeframe dictated by the statute.
Under the terms of the settlement agreements, the Nasonville Fire District agreed to pay a $1,500 fine for a willful and knowing violation and DBR agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for a reckless violation.
Last week, Attorney General Kilmartin announced a settlement with the Town of Warren for a willful and knowing violation of APRA when the Town failed to respond to a request within the timeframe dictated by the statute.
"While the set of facts in each of these cases are different from one another, it is striking that both violations are a result of failing to respond in a timely manner. The easiest aspect of APRA to comply with is perhaps acknowledging a request and responding within the allowable timeframe. It is my hope these lawsuits and settlements will serve as a reminder to all public bodies to be vigilant in complying with our open government laws," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
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.
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 of the APRA. By supplemental finding dated January 8, 2015, the Office of Attorney General concluded that the APRA violation was willful and knowing or reckless and filed a civil lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court.
The investigation into DBR revealed that the Department failed to respond within 10 business days to the July 10, 2013 APRA request made by Scripps News. The investigation further found that DBR responded to the request on September 19, 2013, almost two months after the initial request, and only after Scripps called DBR on September 12, 2013 to inquire about the status of the request. Additionally, the investigation revealed that DBR officials had discussed the APRA request while pending, yet failed to timely respond.
As noted in the supplemental finding, PR 14-07B, the Attorney General determined that based on the evidence, DBR's actions constituted a "reckless" violation of APRA and filed a civil lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court.