Rhode Island Open Meetings Act
The Rhode Island Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 42-46 of the Rhode Island General Laws define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Rhode Island. For more information go the page or go to Rhode Island sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in Rhode Island.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Rhode Island in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"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."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that a meeting is any convening of a public body to discuss or decide upon public business. The law explicitly includes in this definition all "workshop," "working," or "work" sessions.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as all agencies, departments, committees and boards of the state and municipal government, including all libraries that received at least 25% of its budget from public funds.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- the act does not include meetings of only one political party so long as it is not intended to circumvent the spirit of the law
The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE42/42-46/42-46-2.HTM Rhode Island Statute 42-46-2] and is subject to the Rhode Island Open Meetings Act.
All public bodies must provide written notice of their regularly scheduled meetings at the start of the calendar year. In addition, public bodies must provide 48 hours notice of all meetings, including the time and date of the meeting and an agenda. The agenda may be changed during the meeting with a majority vote, with the exception of school boards who may not change the agenda except for informative purposes. The agenda requirement shall not be construed so as to prevent the public body from addressing concerns the public raises during the meeting. Public bodies must post this notice outside their main place of meeting and school boards must post their notice in the local newspaper. Emergency meetings may be held with a majority vote of the public body, provided that notice be posted as soon as practicable and that the minutes of the meeting record the reason that the meeting had to be convened with less than 48 hours notice.
The act requires all public bodies to record minutes of meetings, including the time and location of the meeting, the members in attendance, any votes taken and any subjects discussed. Detailed records of voting must be made available to the public within 2 weeks of the meeting. Minutes must be made available within 35 days of the meeting. Minutes of closed sessions must be made available at the next regularly scheduled public meeting, unless the public body votes in open session to keep them closed.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
A public body may convene an executive closed session with a majority vote for the following reasons:
- discussions of job performance, character, or physical or mental health of a person, assuming the person has not waived his right to a closed trial
- collective bargaining or litigation and other exemptions falling under the attorney-client privilege
- security information
- investigations or allegations of misconduct
- to discuss the purchase or sale of property
- to discuss the investment of public funds
- in order to protect the privacy of students
- hearings or grievances that came about as a result of the collective bargaining agreements
- library donor information
Any vote taken during an executive session must be announced upon reconvening in open session, provided that the announcement does not jeopardize the intention of the closed session.
Any aggrieved citizen of the state may file a complaint with the attorney general who may or may not investigate and prosecute any alleged violations. No complaint may be filed with the attorney general after 180 days of the meeting in violation or the discovery of the violation. Any citizen may also file suit in district court within 180 days of the discovery of the violation or within 90 days of the release of the attorney general's opinion. If the court finds a violation, it may void any action taken during the meeting in question, assess attorney fees and fines of up to $5000 to the public body who violated the act.
State of Rhode Island
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | General Treasurer | Auditor General | Commissioner of Education | Superintendent of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Director of Environmental Management | Director of Labor | Chair of Public Utilities |