The Office of Attorney General filed a complaint in Rhode Island Superior Court citing the Tiverton Town Council and/or Randy Lebeau, in his individual and official capacity as a member of the Town Council, for a reckless and/or willing and knowing violation of the Access to Public Records Act (APRA). In addition to civil penalties, the Attorney General seeks declaratory relief that a withheld document is a public record and must be disclosed.
On July 11, 2017, Ms. Susan Gill made an APRA request to the Town Council seeking a document that Councilor Labeau had referred to and displayed during a prior Town Council meeting. The Town Council denied the request, claiming that Councilor Labeau was in possession of requested document and not the Town Council. On July 26, 2017, Ms. Gill filed an APRA complaint with the Office of Attorney General. In its finding, issued on December 21, 2017, the Office found that the Tiverton Town Council violated the APRA and directed the Town Council and/or Councilman Lebeau to provide Ms. Gill with a copy of the document within 10 business days.
On or about January 3, 2018, the Town of Tiverton emailed Ms. Gill a photograph of one-side of the responsive document, but upon review of the photograph, it appeared the document had writing on the back side and that the back side of the document had not been provided to Ms. Gill. Despite directives to the Town Council and/or Councilor Lebeau to provide Ms. Gill with the back side of the document, or in the alternative to provide this Office the back side of the document for review, the back side of the document has not been provided. As noted in the supplemental finding, PR 18-03B, issued on March 6, 2018, the Office of Attorney General indicated that if the document was not provided by March 20, 2018, further action would be taken to ensure compliance with the finding. To date, there has been no compliance.
"Despite numerous requests and findings by this Office, the Tiverton Town Council and Councilman Lebeau have failed to comply with the APRA for seemingly no legitimate reason," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "The Office of the Attorney General takes many proactive steps to help public officials comply with the APRA, but when public bodies and public officials withhold public records and fail to respond to this Office's repeated requests to determine whether a document is a public record, a lawsuit seeking fines and penalties is appropriate," Attorney General Kilmartin added.
A public body found to be in reckless violation of APRA may face a maximum civil fine of $1,000 per violation, as compared to the willful and knowing violation, which is subject to a maximum civil fine of $2,000 per violation. In addition, the Office of Attorney General seeks disclosure of both sides of the requested document.