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PR 15-26 Access/Rhode Island v. New Shoreham Police Department No violation

Even though Access/Rhode Island did not have standing to file this complaint, we reviewed this complaint consistent with this Department's independent statutory authority as described in West Warwick School Department, PR 15-23. Access/Rhode Island contended that the Police Department violated the APRA on six (6) occasions, when it failed to submit an APRA certification form to this Department pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3.16, when it failed to maintain/post APRA procedures on its website, and when it failed to respond timely to four (4) separate APRA requests. The evidence revealed that the Town of New Shoreham promulgated an APRA procedure and that this APRA procedure was posted on the Town's website "since April 1, 2014." The Town's APRA procedure required all APRA requests made to any Town department, including the Police Department, be made to the Town Clerk. Here, the four (4) APRA requests that Access/Rhode Island claimed where responded to in an untimely manner were all made after April 1, 2014, and were all made to persons or entities other than the Town Clerk, typically, the Police Chief. (It should be noted that the Police Chief had warned MuckRock that the Town's internet connection was intermittent and unreliable). Because the APRA mandates that public bodies provide notice to the public and post on its website the manner in which APRA requests should be made, see R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3(d), because the Town complied with this requirement for all post-April 1, 2014 APRA requests, and because MuckRock failed to follow the posted Town APRA procedures, we found that the Police Department did not violate the APRA when it failed to respond in a timely manner to MuckRock's four (4) post April 1, 2014 APRA requests, none of which were not made in accordance with Town's APRA procedures. See Rosenfield v. North Kingstown School Department, PR 14-02 ("This Department has previously determined that an APRA request must first comport with a public body's APRA policy before we can decide whether a violation has occurred"). Additionally, notwithstanding the foregoing, even though R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3.2 provides that certain delineated adult arrest log information be provided within "forty-eight (48) hours after receipt of a request unless a request is made on a weekend or holiday, in which event the information shall be made available within seventy-two (72) hours," the evidence established that MuckRock's APRA request expressly requested that the Police Department provide such information within "10 business days," thus waiving the time frame set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3.2. See Gallucci v. Brindamour, 477 A.2d 617, 618 (R.I. 1984)("Generally, a party or parties for whose benefit a right is provided by constitution, by statute, or by principles of common law may waive such right, regardless of the plain and unambiguous terms by which such right is expressed."). Moreover, since R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3.16 mandates that a public employee receive APRA training when that employee has "the authority to grant or deny persons or entities access to records under this [APRA]," and since the evidence demonstrated that the Town Clerk and not the Police Chief had this authority according to the Town's APRA procedures, we also found that the Police Department did not violate the APRA when the Police Department did not submit an APRA certification form to this Department. Lastly, we found that because the Town promulgated and posted APRA procedures, and these APRA procedures expressly included all town departments including the Police Department, the Police Department did not violate the APRA when it did not independently promulgate and post APRA procedures.

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