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OM 15-09 - Thibeault v. Smithfield Town Council - No Violation

Complainant alleged that she was prevented from taking notes at the Town Council's March 19, 2015 meeting. Specifically, Complainant alleged that the Town Manager "informed [her] that the rest of the meeting was 'off the record' and that [she] could not report on anything that was said." In Pine v. McGreavy, 687 A.2d 1244 (R.I. 1997), the Rhode Island Supreme Court was confronted with a situation where a moderator of a financial town meeting caused a reporter to be ejected. The Court held that "the moderator is only the presiding officer of the financial town meeting and cannot in and of himself or herself constitute a public body." Id. In the present matter, the evidence showed that Complainant's allegations pertained specifically (and only) to the Town Manager and no argument or evidence was presented that the Town Council, or its members, precluded Complainant from taking notes at the March 19 meeting. Therefore, following the Supreme Court's reasoning in Pine, we concluded that the Town Manager's alleged actions did not constitute an OMA violation on behalf of the Town Council.

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