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ADV OM 17-01 In Re: Office of the Child Advocate Death Review Panel

The Rhode Island Child Advocate sought an OMA advisory opinion concerning whether the Death Review Panel ("DRP") is a "public body" subject to the OMA. Based on Solas v. Emergency Hiring Council, 774 A.2d 820 (R.I. 2001) and Pontarelli v. Rhode Island Board Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, No. 2015-332-Appeal (PC 15-928), 2016 WL 7403942 (R.I. Supreme, December 21, 2016), we looked to the DRP's scope of authority, frequency of meetings, and composition of membership. The evidence demonstrated, inter alia, that the DRP consists of a varying set of members who convene only when a fatality or near fatality of a child occurs and that the membership of the DRP is not defined and work voluntarily. Additionally, the DRP does not implement policy or legislative changes but instead makes recommendations to support prospective changes. These recommendations are published in a report that is made public by statute within thirty days of its completion. As such, based on the specific evidence presented, we found that the DRP was "an informal, strictly advisory committee." Pontarelli, 2016 WL 7403942 at *6. Therefore, we opined that the DRP is not a "public body" under the OMA.

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