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OM 17-08 Esposito, et al v. Scituate School Committee and Superintendent Search Subcommittee Violation

Complainants alleged numerous OMA violations. With respect to the sufficiency of an agenda item for the School Committee's meeting, Complainants attended the meeting in question and had the opportunity to voice their concerns on this issue and, accordingly, we found that Complainants were not aggrieved and thus had no standing to object to the agenda. See R.I. Gen. Laws 42-46-8(a). With respect to the allegations regarding failure to post written notice and meeting minutes for the Search Subcommittee's meeting, we examined whether the Search Subcommittee was a "public body" under 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, 151 A.3d 301 (R.I. 2016), we looked to the Search Subcommittee's scope of delegated authority. The evidence demonstrated, inter alia, that the Search Subcommittee screened all the applicants for the superintendent position, interviewed candidates, and eliminated from consideration various applicants, ultimately advancing only one candidate to the School Committee. Accordingly, the Search Subcommittee took action, an exercise of authority which is markedly distinguishable from the "informal, strictly advisory" role the entity had taken in Pontarelli, 151 A.3d at 308. As such, we found that the Search Subcommittee is a "public body" subject to the OMA's requirements and, consequently, we found that the Search Subcommittee violated the OMA when it failed to post written notice and meeting minutes for its meeting. See R.I. Gen. Laws 42-46-6(b), 42-46-7(a). However, we found injunctive relief inappropriate and did not find any evidence of a willful and knowing violation. VIOLATION FOUND.

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