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PR 15-27 Access/Rhode Island v. Department of Corrections Violation found

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 Department of Corrections violated the APRA when it failed to provide APRA certification forms to this Department evidencing APRA training pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3.16 and when it failed to respond in a timely manner to two (2) MuckRock APRA requests. The evidence demonstrated that although two (2) DOC attorneys had attended and received appropriate APRA training in August 2013, which would have qualified for calendar year 2014 in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3.16, no evidence was submitted that the certification forms had been submitted to this Department, and accordingly, this omission violated the APRA. With respect to the allegations that the DOC had responded in an untimely manner to two (2) MuckRock APRA requests, we found that one of these instances violated the APRA. In particular, MuckRock had made an APRA request to the DOC e-mail account, but unbeknownst to the employee who monitored the DOC e-mail account, information technology changes had been made and she was no longer permitted access. This issue was corrected. With respect to the second untimely response allegation, Access/Rhode Island alleged that the DOC responded one (1) day late to MuckRock's APRA request seeking "[c]ontracts for the ten (10) employees with the highest salaries," which was made on April 29, 2014. The evidence revealed that on May 7, 2014, within the ten (10) business day statutory time period, DOC responded that its staff employees were not hired under a contract agreement, at which point MuckRock responded by indicating that "[i]f no staff of Department of Corrections is under contract, then you can consider this request closed." Although MuckRock sought further confirmation, as of May 8, 2014, the DOC had related that it did not maintain staff contracts and MuckRock had indicated that if no DOC staff were under contract, the APRA request could be considered "closed." All of these events occurred within ten (10) business days and we found no violation.

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