Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 28, 2007

Board Meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 5:01 pm

The School Board Meeting will be aired tonight on Channel 18 @ 8 pm.

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20 Comments »

  1. You’ve certainly provided a lot of information to get through!

    Two things struck me as I read through the Attorney General’s guidlines.

    If I read it correctly, prior to going into Executive Session, the public is to be informed about the topic to be discussed. In the case of Mr. Ricci, that would be “concerns” about his character and integrity. Were you told that you are not supposed to inform the public of the issues to be addressed in Executive Session? If so, that seems to be the exact opposite of what I read in the guidelines.

    The other point of emphasis is Executive Session discussions are to ONLY include those issues which have been announced to the public. In Mr. Ricci’s case, the items to be discussed should have been limited to his character and integrity, unless other issues were noted in the open part of the meeting.

    Keep in mind that any of the disagreements that led Mr. Ricci to feel like his integrity was being questioned should NOT have been discussed in Executive Session. If Mr. Ricci or any school committe members talked about issues such as RYSE, grade configuration, staffing numbers, or anything else of public interest, then in my opinion, the law was violated. If discussions of any topic other than Mr. Ricci’s performance were discussed, this was a violation from what I’ve read. Even if these issues were discussed in context of Mr. Ricci’s performance, I believe it is clear that they should have come out of Executive Session and into the open part of the meeting.

    Obviously, I have no idea what was brought up in Executive Session. Hopefully the closed meeting was narrowly focused on Mr. Ricci’s performance and none of the issues of disagreement between Mr. Ricci and members of the community were debated or discussed. This would also include this website, letters to the editor, or any other items other than Mr. Ricci’s performance concerns.

    It is possible that the public will never be informed, but if you are an elected official, please note that you have an obligation to adhere to the Open Meeting laws.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 28, 2007 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

  2. I have the meeting taping, but didn’t remember until 8:30. I hope I don’t miss anything of substance.

    Besides the issue of grade configuration, I am also very curious about the TERC curriculum issue. I remain puzzled by the administration’s commitment to an obviously flawed curriculum. I hope to hear Mr. Ricci backing off from this curricula. I’d like to hear the steps Chariho will be taking to transition to a math curriculum that teaches students mathematic skills.

    If Chariho continues down the same path and refuses to move on the TERC/Investigations curriculum, I think it becomes necessary to determine why they are obstinately refusing to consider alternatives? I would like to know who, when, and where school employees attended seminars where TERC/Investigations was a topic of discussion? I’d like to know if any school employees received stipends, lodging, meals, calculators, or any other items of value in regard to TERC? I’d like to know who the salesperson is that sold the TERC curriculum to Chariho? I’d like to know if anyone associated with TERC has affiliations with school boards, teachers’ unions or administrators?

    Most importantly, I want to see TERC go before any more children are burdened with a subpar math curriculum. I’m willing to accept that implementation of TERC was a callous mistake and there is no other reason than ignorance that it was put in place. BUT, if TERC continues to be used in light of all the known negative consequences to children, then I am forced to believe that there lies more to this thing than a tragic mistake. I call upon school committee members to take a hard look at this issue, including the things I listed above, if the administration does not propose alternative curricula to replace TERC/Investigations.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 28, 2007 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  3. The meeting is on Cox ch 18 right now. At the very end of the meeting, you will hear Giancarlo read some interesting points from the Open Meeting Law. The following vote seemed to ignore the information. I hope your watching.

    Comment by cspf — March 28, 2007 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

  4. Are public officials legally bound to report violations of Open Meeting laws? For instance, if you are in Executive Session and topics such as RYSE, grade configuration, TERC, or any other matter which should be part of an Open Meeting are addressed, are you supposed to report the violations to anyone?

    How about when you are in the Executive Session and topics suitable for Open Meetings begin to be discussed, does a public official need to ask everyone to wait to discuss the topic in an Open Meeting? What if everyone else says no? Considering that only those in Executive Session have the knowledge of what is being discussed, how is the public supposed to know if Open Meeting laws have been violated?

    I will not be able to watch the meeting until tomorrow evening at the earliest. I will pay attention to the end of the meeting.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 28, 2007 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

  5. I called home and had my wife play the end of the tape. Unfortunately, her taping skills are not good, so I was able to hear part of the meeting about staffing and the tape ended. I think it will repeat Friday at noon and I will be home to make sure it tapes correctly (I hope).

    Since I did hear some of the discussion about staffing numbers for administrators (it was scratchy over the phone), can anyone explain why we need to go to Washington, D.C. or Providence, RI to find out how many administrators we have in the Chariho system? Geez, you would think that these numbers would be easy to come by and Mr. Ricci should be able to rattle them off with ease? How is it possible that the number of employees is not available? Like other issues at Chariho, this one smells bad.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 28, 2007 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  6. “Considering that only those in Executive Session have the knowledge of what is being discussed, how is the public supposed to know if Open Meeting laws have been violated?”
    You make a good point, the assumption is that only those in Executive Session have the knowledge of what is being discussed. However, as seen in Mr. Felkner’s post the day before the meeting he chose to disclose what would be discussed. This may have been merely an accident, yet even though he removed it from the website, he allowed for the comments from that post to remain, which clearly explain what the Executive Session was in regards to.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 28, 2007 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  7. Also, accurate numbers are available in regards to staffing within Chariho, however these numbers are only accurate when looking at the Chariho budget. What I believe Mr. Felkner has discovered (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that information out there compiled by others than Chariho have proven to be inaccurate. The frustration lies when attempting to compare Chariho to other schools. Mr. Felkner made a very good points throughout the last evening’s discussion on this subject.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 28, 2007 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

  8. Mr. McQuaide, I read some of the Attorney General’s guidelines on Open Meetings and it was pretty clear to me that Executive Sessions require that the subjects to be discussed must be presented to the public before entering a Closed Session. This is not the same as knowing the specifics of what is to be discussed. Therefore, from my interpretations, what Mr. Felkner posted was the information that you are legally bound to tell the public.

    My concern is that once you get into your Closed Session, you then discuss issues which are legally supposed to be discussed only in public. This would include RYSE, curriculum, grade configuration, staffing numbers, and pretty much everything else other than Mr. Ricci’s performance. I hope you all adhere to these guidelines as I believe it is your legal responsibility to do so. Mr. Ricci also has the option, at his discretion, to ask that discussion of his performance occur in public. In this instance, considering that his integrity was not really questioned, he probably should have done this, but that’s his call.

    If anyone discussed issues beyond Mr. Ricci’s performance in Closed Session, then you should have informed the public before going into the Closed Session. If any of those items were suitable for public consumption, such as the issues I mentioned, then I believe the law has been violated. Please encourage all School Committee members to adhere to the Open Meeting laws. Thank you.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  9. If staffing numbers are readily available, please share them. I don’t mean the total salaries which is in the budget, but an actual head count of all school employees. I think taxpayers are intelligent enough to determine for themselves if we are overloaded with administrative employees.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 12:37 am | Reply

  10. You are right, we are required to tell the public why we are going into Executive Session. However what I am personally unclear of, and need to do some further research on, is the extent of the details we can disclose as individuals or as a school committee.
    We can say that we are going into Executive Session for the purposes of reviewing an individual’s job performance, but is revealing who that individual is an invasion of that individual’s privacy? My feeling is that it is an invasion. I suppsoe it is easier to argue against this when we are speaking about the Superintendent, but if we set this sort of precedent how far does it go? Shall we release the names of all the teachers that we meet with, the students who come before us for disciplinarian purposes? I strongly believe we owe all individuals who are discussed in Executive Session the respect and privacy they deserve, regardless of their position within the school district.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 29, 2007 @ 12:52 am | Reply

  11. Here’s some relevent passages from the Attorney General’s guide to Open Meetings.

    Discussing job performance in executive session after the affected person(s) requested that such discussion be held in open session violated the Open Meetings Act. However, such affected person(s) have no right to request that the discussion be held in closed seesion. Jutras v. West Warwick School Committee, OM 96-14

    An executive session to discuss overall performance of a Regional School District’s administration is not permissible. Hayes v. Bristol/Warren Regional Joint Finance Committee, OM 95-32

    I also note that AG’s guidelines refer to an executive session to discuss job performance when asked for by the public body. I did not come across any criteria for an employee to request an executive session to discuss his/her job performance. In Mr. Ricci’s situation, to my knowledge, he was the one who wanted to discuss his peformance? Not sure if he even has the right to ask for an executive session?

    Also, how do you determine that an issue needs to be addressed in executive session without addressing the issue in public? For instance, I do not believe it is legal for elected bodies to vote outside of a public forum. How would any of you know what or who was to be discussed if you didn’t discuss it in a public forum? To discuss a personnel issue, even merely to agree to go to executive session, seems to me to be illegal if not done in public?

    I guess you could have one member ask for an executive session to discuss a personnel matter, and everyone trusts that person is right and you don’t find out about why you are there until you’re behind closed doors? But then, you do have to notify the employee you will be discussing in executive session, so therefore, it seems it would need to be agreed to in a public forum. Am I missing something here?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  12. Both you and I stay up far too late, if you don’t mind I’ll respond in the morning.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 29, 2007 @ 1:08 am | Reply

  13. I also admire how much you can type in such a short period of time.

    Comment by Andrew McQuaide — March 29, 2007 @ 1:08 am | Reply

  14. Yes, I am a big fan of anonymity. I am also a big fan of the rule of law and open government. When privacy and open government collide, I think politicians need to tread very carefully.

    In Mr. Ricci’s case, it is unclear to me if he even has the right to request an executive session. According to the AG’s guidelines, it seems he doesn’t have the right to ask.

    The guidelines, as expressed by case precedence, also notes that it is not permissible to discuss overall administration performance in close session. So I hope your session last night focused narrowly on Mr. Ricci’s performance, and not the overall performance of his administration.

    And again, I am baffled how it is possible to determine the need for an executive session without public discussion of who or what will be discussed. If I read the Open Meeting Act correctly, you can’t call each other on the phone and decide on issues. You can’t do it over dinner at the Lucky House. This is illegal. So when would you decide that a certain person needs to be discussed in executive session?

    The best that seems possible is to identify the person in public and then ask for an executive session to discuss the person’s performance? Tell me where I’m messing this up, because it seems virtually impossible to avoid stating in public who is being discussed?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 1:15 am | Reply

  15. I was lucky…I grew up before computer keyboarding, but Chariho insisted on one year of typing. I thought they were daft, but I took it from there and kept at it. Along came computers, and I was good to go!

    I do stay up to late, but I still get up in the morning, so I must be getting old. I look forward to your insights.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 1:20 am | Reply

  16. Open meetings criteria are extremely specific and how they are presented to the public seems to need further clarification from the AG’s office. The same issues come up at council meetings. I believe that although the meeting itself is confidential (until it is resolved and then it is public), it is still crucial to the public to know who or what the topic is. For instance litigation should be titled “so and so versus the particular town” or if a personnel issue “so and so’s contract” or the “IBPOE Police Union contract”. I would think that any student under the age of eighteen would be private and certainly not mentioned by name. An adult, on the other hand, should be.

    It is completely legal to put this information in print on the agenda. It can also be mentioned in specifics at the meeting itself. I also believe (and I can be wrong) that if you determine to the best of your ability that a meeting is in violation of the open meetings law and you vote against it, you should not attend that meeting. If your solicitor is there a further determination can be made. If the solicitor is not there the Executive session should be stopped until further clarification is reached.

    One of the issues I have as a new councilor is this one. I did not appreciate the lack of specifics in the prior years at town council meetings of executive session. They were on the agenda as completely generic and the solicitor would name specifics only at the actual council meeting. I don’t think that is appropriate. The public not only has a right to know what or whom you are discussing, but, later, when the issue is resolved how can you find the minutes you wish to open as a citizen unless you know at which meetings it was discussed?

    Comment by BarbaraC — March 29, 2007 @ 8:09 am | Reply

  17. Thank you for providing your understanding of the law Ms. Capalbo.

    How could a public body determine it needs to go into executive session without discussing in public what the session will be about?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but elected bodies are not allowed to vote outside of a public forum, so it seems impossible to reach consensus that an executive session is needed without discussing the issue, at least superficially, in public?

    Even in the case of a student, and I agree their privacy should be secured if possible, wouldn’t the school committee become aware of the issue in public? If I understand correctly, they can’t communicate via phone or private meeting and reach an agreement (akin to a vote) without violating the law. Wouldn’t this mean the public is aware of the person (student) and the issue?

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 8:44 am | Reply

  18. Often the public body does not make that determination, the solicitor for the board or council does this. But it must be in written (and often verbal) format on the agenda. The council must vote individually (and are recorded as such) whether they agree to go into executive session for those discussions – like police or teacher contracts, land acquistion, personnel issues.

    If a public body is in contract negotiations or land negotiations it would be discussed and consensus reached in executive session without discussing any of the details or even generalities in public. I believe voting (and it must be done in public) generally concerns any financial or legislative issues before the citizens and their government. And you are correct that a majority of members cannot discuss and determine public policy outside of an advertised public meeting.

    But where students (specifically minors) are involved, even if the public was aware of a problem with a particular student, any discussions about that problem would be in executive session to protect their (the minors) privacy. Anyone on a board can ask that the issue be addressed. It does not take a discussion between or betwixt anyone else. I would think that the result of the meeting would still be held completely private even after it was resolved. But I am not sure. Perhaps the solicitor for the school could enlighten all of us on this issue.

    Comment by BarbaraC — March 29, 2007 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  19. Yes, I understand the need for a parent and child to have the option of executive session in some cases. My question is about actually getting into executive session without public awareness of who or what is to be discussed in the executive session. How could an elected official determine if an executive session is appropriate without first discussing the issue (at least superficially) in public?

    Also, from what I read in the AG’s guidelines, the subject of a proposed executive session can request that that the discussion occur in public. I can see the value of this, as I can think of many situations where I would want discussions to be in the open so there is no question what was said. I would think, and hope, that the parents of a child appearing before the School Committee would be able to decide if they want to be in executive session or not.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 29, 2007 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  20. It is my understanding that when an Exec Session is requested, the reason for doing so, with a citation of the appropriate regulation, should be entered into the minutes. Also of note – topics not covered by this citations shall not be discussed in closed meeting. Furthermore, once the issue is resolved, the minutes of that closed meeting become public documents.

    TITLE 42
    State Affairs and Government

    CHAPTER 42-46
    Open Meetings

    SECTION 42-46-1
    § 42-46-1 Public policy. – It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.

    SECTION 42-46-2

    § 42-46-2 Definitions. – As used in this chapter:

    (a) “Meeting” means the convening of a public body to discuss and/or act upon a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. As used herein, the term “meeting” shall expressly include, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, so-called “workshop,” “working,” or “work” sessions.

    (b) “Open call” means a public announcement by the chairperson of the committee that the meeting is going to be held in executive session and the chairperson must indicate which exception of § 42-46-5 is being involved.

    (c) “Public body” means any department, agency, commission, committee, board, council, bureau, or authority or any subdivision thereof of state or municipal government or any library that funded a majority of its operational budget in the prior budget year with public funds, and shall include all authorities defined in § 42-35-1(b). For purposes of this section, any political party, organization, or unit thereof meeting or convening is not and should not be considered to be a public body; provided, however that no such meeting shall be used to circumvent the requirements of this chapter.

    (d) “Quorum,” unless otherwise defined by applicable law, means a simple majority of the membership of a public body.

    (e) “Prevailing plaintiff” shall include those persons and entities deemed “prevailing parties” pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

    (f) “Open forum” means the designated portion of an open meeting, if any, on a properly posted notice reserved for citizens to address comments to a public body relating to matters affecting the public business.

    SECTION 42-46-3

    § 42-46-3 Open meetings. – Every meeting of all public bodies shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to §§ 42-46-4 and 42-46-5.

    SECTION 42-46-4

    § 42-46-4 Closed meetings. – By open call, a public body may hold a meeting closed to the public upon an affirmative vote of the majority of its members. A meeting closed to the public shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from discussion at open meetings by § 42-46-5. The vote of each member on the question of holding a meeting closed to the public and the reason for holding a closed meeting, by a citation to a subdivision of § 42-46-5(a), and a statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed, shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting. No public body shall discuss in closed session any public matter which does not fall within the citations to § 42-46-5(a) referred to by the public body in voting to close the meeting, even if these discussions could otherwise be closed to the public under this chapter.
    All votes taken in closed sessions shall be disclosed once the session is reopened; provided, however, a vote taken in a closed session need not be disclosed for the period of time during which its disclosure would jeopardize any strategy, negotiation or investigation undertaken pursuant to discussions conducted under § 42-46-5(a).

    SECTION 42-46-5

    § 42-46-5 Purposes for which meeting may be closed – Use of electronic communications – Judicial proceedings – Disruptive conduct. – (a) A public body may hold a meeting closed to the public pursuant to § 42-46-4 for one or more of the following purposes:

    (1) Any discussions of the job performance, character, or physical or mental health of a person or persons provided that such person or persons affected shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that they may require that the discussion be held at an open meeting.

    Failure to provide such notification shall render any action taken against the person or persons affected null and void. Before going into a closed meeting pursuant to this subsection, the public body shall state for the record that any persons to be discussed have been so notified and this statement shall be noted in the minutes of the meeting.

    (2) Sessions pertaining to collective bargaining or litigation, or work sessions pertaining to collective bargaining or litigation.

    (3) Discussion regarding the matter of security including but not limited to the deployment of security personnel or devices.

    (4) Any investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct, either civil or criminal.

    (5) Any discussions or considerations related to the acquisition or lease of real property for public purposes, or of the disposition of publicly held property wherein advanced public information would be detrimental to the interest of the public.

    (6) Any discussions related to or concerning a prospective business or industry locating in the state of Rhode Island when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the interest of the public.

    (7) A matter related to the question of the investment of public funds where the premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest. Public funds shall include any investment plan or matter related thereto, including but not limited to state lottery plans for new promotions.

    (8) Any executive sessions of a local school committee exclusively for the purposes (a) of conducting student disciplinary hearings or (b) of reviewing other matters which relate to the privacy of students and their records, including all hearings of the various juvenile hearing boards of any municipality; provided, however, that any affected student shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that he or she may require that the discussion be held in an open meeting.

    Failure to provide such notification shall render any action taken against the student or students affected null and void. Before going into a closed meeting pursuant to this subsection, the public body shall state for the record that any students to be discussed have been so notified and this statement shall be noted in the minutes of the meeting.

    (9) Any hearings on, or discussions of, a grievance filed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

    (10) Any discussion of the personal finances of a prospective donor to a library.

    (b) No meeting of members of a public body or use of electronic communication, including telephonic communication and telephone conferencing, shall be used to circumvent the spirit or requirements of this chapter; provided, however, these meetings and discussions are not prohibited.

    Provided, further however, that discussions of a public body via electronic communication, including telephonic communication and telephone conferencing, shall be permitted only to schedule a meeting.

    Provided, further however, that a member of a public body may participate by use of electronic communication or telephone communication while on active duty in the armed services of the United States.

    (c) This chapter shall not apply to proceedings of the judicial branch of state government or probate court or municipal court proceedings in any city or town.

    (d) This chapter shall not prohibit the removal of any person who willfully disrupts a meeting to the extent that orderly conduct of the meeting is seriously compromised.

    SECTION 42-46-6

    § 42-46-6 Notice. – (a) All public bodies shall give written notice of their regularly scheduled meetings at the beginning of each calendar year. The notice shall include the dates, times, and places of the meetings and shall be provided to members of the public upon request and to the secretary of state at the beginning of each calendar year in accordance with subsection (f).

    (b) Public bodies shall give supplemental written public notice of any meeting within a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours before the date. This notice shall include the date the notice was posted, the date, time and place of the meeting, and a statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed. Copies of the notice shall be maintained by the public body for a minimum of one year. Nothing contained herein shall prevent a public body, other than a school committee, from adding additional items to the agenda by majority vote of the members. School committees may, however, add items for informational purposes only, pursuant to a request, submitted in writing, by a member of the public during the public comment session of the school committee’s meetings. Said informational items may not be voted upon unless they have been posted in accordance with the provisions of this section. Such additional items shall be for informational purposes only and may not be voted on except where necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public or to refer the matter to an appropriate committee or to another body or official.

    (c) Written public notice shall include, but need not be limited to posting a copy of the notice at the principal office of the public body holding the meeting, or if no principal office exists, at the building in which the meeting is to be held, and in at least one other prominent place within the governmental unit, and electronic filing of the notice with the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (f); provided, that in the case of school committees the required public notice shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the school district under the committee’s jurisdiction; however, ad hoc committees, sub committees and advisory committees of school committees shall not be required to publish notice in a newspaper; however, nothing contained herein shall prevent a public body from holding an emergency meeting, upon an affirmative vote of the majority of the members of the body when the meeting is deemed necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public. If an emergency meeting is called, a meeting notice and agenda shall be posted as soon as practicable and shall be electronically filed with the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (e) and, upon meeting, the public body shall state for the record and minutes why the matter must be addressed in less than forty-eight (48) hours and only discuss the issue or issues which created the need for an emergency meeting. Nothing contained herein shall be used in the circumvention of the spirit and requirements of this chapter.

    (d) Nothing within this chapter shall prohibit any public body, or the members thereof, from responding to comments initiated by a member of the public during a properly noticed open forum even if the subject matter of a citizen’s comments or discussions were not previously posted, provided such matters shall be for informational purposes only and may not be voted on except where necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public or to refer the matter to an appropriate committee or to another body or official. Nothing contained in this chapter requires any public body to hold an open forum session, to entertain or respond to any topic nor does it prohibit any public body from limiting comment on any topic at such an open forum session. No public body, or the members thereof, may use this section to circumvent the spirit or requirements of this chapter.

    (e) A school committee may add agenda items not appearing in the published notice required by this section under the following conditions:

    (1) The revised agenda is electronically filed with the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (f), and is posted on the school district’s website and the two (2) public locations required by this section at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance of the meeting;

    (2) The new agenda items were unexpected and could not have been added in time for newspaper publication;

    (3) Upon meeting, the public body states for the record and minutes why the agenda items could not have been added in time for newspaper publication and need to be addressed at the meeting;

    (4) A formal process is available to provide timely notice of the revised agenda to any person who has requested that notice, and the school district has taken reasonable steps to make the public aware of this process; and

    (5) The published notice shall include a statement that any changes in the agenda will be posted on the school district’s web site and the two (2) public locations required by this section and will be electronically filed with the secretary of state at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance of the meeting.

    (f) All notices required by this section to be filed with the secretary of state shall be electronically transmitted to the secretary of state in accordance with rules and regulations which shall be promulgated by the secretary of state. This requirement of the electronic transmission and filing of notices with the secretary of state shall take effect one (1) year after this subsection takes effect.

    (g) If a public body fails to transmit notices in accordance with this section, then any aggrieved person may file a complaint with the attorney general in accordance with § 42-46-8.

    SECTION 42-46-7

    § 42-46-7 Minutes. – (a) All public bodies shall keep written minutes of all their meetings. The minutes shall include, but need not be limited to:

    (1) The date, time, and place of the meeting;

    (2) The members of the public body recorded as either present or absent;

    (3) A record by individual members of any vote taken; and

    (4) Any other information relevant to the business of the public body that any member of the public body requests be included or reflected in the minutes.

    (b) A record of all votes taken at all meetings of public bodies, listing how each member voted on each issue, shall be a public record and shall be available, to the public at the office of the public body, within two (2) weeks of the date of the vote. The minutes shall be public records and unofficial minutes shall be available, to the public at the office of the public body, within thirty five (35) days of the meeting or at the next regularly scheduled meeting, whichever is earlier, except where the disclosure would be inconsistent with §§ 42-46-4 and 42-46-5 or where the public body by majority vote extends the time period for the filing of the minutes and publicly states the reason.

    (c) The minutes of a closed session shall be made available at the next regularly scheduled meeting unless the majority of the body votes to keep the minutes closed pursuant to §§ 42-46-4 and 42-46-5.

    (d) All public bodies within the executive branch of the state government and all state public and quasi-public boards, agencies and corporations shall keep official and/or approved minutes of all meetings of the body and shall file a copy of the minutes of all open meetings with the secretary of state for inspection by the public within thirty-five (35) days of the meeting; provided that this subsection shall not apply to public bodies whose responsibilities are solely advisory in nature.

    (e) All minutes required by this section to be filed with the secretary of state shall be electronically transmitted to the secretary of state in accordance with rules and regulations which shall be promulgated by the secretary of state. This requirement of the electronic transmission and filing of minutes with the secretary of state shall take effect one year after this subsection takes effect. If a public body fails to transmit minutes in accordance with this subsection, then any aggrieved person may file a complaint with the attorney general in accordance with § 42-46-8.

    SECTION 42-46-8

    § 42-46-8 Remedies available to aggrieved persons or entities. – (a) Any citizen or entity of the state who is aggrieved as a result of violations of the provisions of this chapter may file a complaint with the attorney general. The attorney general shall investigate the complaint and if the attorney general determines that the allegations of the complaint are meritorious he or she may file a complaint on behalf of the complainant in the superior court against the public body.

    (b) No complaint may be filed by the attorney general after one hundred eighty (180) days from the date of public approval of the minutes of the meeting at which the alleged violation occurred, or, in the case of an unannounced or improperly closed meeting, after one hundred eighty (180) days from the public action of a public body revealing the alleged violation, whichever is greater.

    (c) Nothing within this section shall prohibit any individual from retaining private counsel for the purpose of filing a complaint in the superior court within the time specified by this section against the public body which has allegedly violated the provisions of this chapter; provided, however, that if the individual has first filed a complaint with the attorney general pursuant to this section, and the attorney general declines to take legal action, the individual may file suit in superior court within ninety (90) days of the attorney general’s closing of the complaint or within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged violation, whichever occurs later.

    (d) The court shall award reasonable attorney fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff, other than the attorney general, except where special circumstances would render such an award unjust.

    The court may issue injunctive relief and declare null and void any actions of a public body found to be in violation of this chapter. In addition, the court may impose a civil fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) against a public body or any of its members found to have committed a willful or knowing violation of this chapter.

    (e) [Deleted by P.L. 1988, ch. 659, § 1.]

    (f) Nothing within this section shall prohibit the attorney general from initiating a complaint on behalf of the public interest.

    (g) Actions brought under this chapter may be advanced on the calendar upon motion of the petitioner.

    (h) The attorney general shall consider all complaints filed under this chapter to have also been filed under § 38-2-8(b) if applicable.

    SECTION 42-46-9

    § 42-46-9 Other applicable law. – The provisions of this chapter shall be in addition to any and all other conditions or provisions of applicable law and are not to be construed to be in amendment of or in repeal of any other applicable provision of law, except § 16-2-29, which has been expressly repealed.

    SECTION 42-46-10

    § 42-46-10 Severability. – If any provision of this chapter, or the application of this chapter to any particular meeting or type of meeting, is held invalid or unconstitutional, the decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining provisions or the other applications of this chapter.

    SECTION 42-46-11

    § 42-46-11 Reported violations. – Every year the attorney general shall prepare a report summarizing the complaints received pursuant to this chapter, which shall be submitted to the legislature and which shall include information as to how many complaints were found to be meritorious and the action taken by the attorney general in response to those complaints.

    SECTION 42-46-12

    § 42-46-12 Notice of citizen’s rights under this chapter. – The attorney general shall prepare a notice providing concise information explaining the requirements of this chapter and advising citizens of their right to file complaints for violations of this chapter. The notice shall be posted in a prominent location in each city and town hall in the state.

    SECTION 42-46-13

    § 42-46-13 Accessibility for persons with disabilities. – (a) All public bodies, to comply with the nondiscrimination on the basis of disability requirements of R.I. Const., Art. I, § 2 and applicable federal and state nondiscrimination laws (29 U.S.C. § 794, chapter 87 of this title, and chapter 24 of title 11), shall develop a transition plan setting forth the steps necessary to ensure that all open meetings of said public bodies are accessible to persons with disabilities.

    (b) The state building code standards committee shall, by September 1, 1989 adopt an accessibility of meetings for persons with disabilities standard that includes provisions ensuring that the meeting location is accessible to and usable by all persons with disabilities.

    (c) This section does not require the public body to make each of its existing facilities accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities so long as all meetings required to be open to the public pursuant to chapter 46 of this title are held in accessible facilities by the dates specified in subsection (e).

    (d) The public body may comply with the requirements of this section through such means as reassignment of meetings to accessible facilities, alteration of existing facilities, or construction of new facilities. The public body is not required to make structural changes in existing facilities where other methods are effective in achieving compliance with this section.

    (e) The public body shall comply with the obligations established under this section by July 1, 1990, except that where structural changes in facilities are necessary in order to comply with this section, such changes shall be made by December 30, 1991, but in any event as expeditiously as possible unless an extension is granted by the state building commissioner for good cause.

    (f) Each municipal government and school district shall, with the assistance of the state building commission, complete a transition plan covering the location of meetings for all public bodies under their jurisdiction. Each chief executive of each city or town and the superintendent of schools will submit their transition plan to the governor’s commission on disabilities for review and approval. The governor’s commission on disabilities with assistance from the state building commission shall approve or modify, with the concurrence of the municipal government or school district, the transition plans.

    (g) The provisions of §§ 45-13-7 – 45-13-10, inclusive, shall not apply to this section.

    SECTION 42-46-14

    § 42-46-14 Burden of proof. – In all actions brought under this chapter, the burden shall be on the public body to demonstrate that the meeting in dispute was properly closed pursuant to, or otherwise exempt from the terms of this chapter.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — March 29, 2007 @ 6:30 pm | Reply


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