Issue Position: Access to Public Meetings

Issue Position

By:  Edith Ajello
Date: Jan. 1, 2012
Location: Unknown

In her Providence Journal August 23rd Political Scene article Katherine Gregg described me as, "the persistent sponsor of doomed bills favored by Common Cause, the Rhode League of Women Voters and other citizens groups to strengthen the state's Access to Public Records Act."

Indeed, despite our failure to date, I intend to push on because the media and citizens alike must have access to the workings of government in order to effect (or prevent) change and to root out corruption. Greater transparency will be refreshing for Rhode Island! Key revisions include:

* Unequivocal elimination of any requirement beyond the cost for copying
If a record is public, it is public unless our law states otherwise.

* Clarifying the details police must provide within 24 hours after an arrest-
We need to be able to find out who was arrested and for what cause, without the extensive redaction that can make an arrest report meaningless.

* Allow legal costs to be sought in court without the precondition of a court order requiring production of the records
This change would allow plaintiffs to seek payment of legal costs when records are finally produced during litigation at the last moment before the scheduled day in court.

* Require heads of public agencies and departments to designate a person responsible for providing records
One shouldn't have to be a detective to find the right office or person to ask; there needs to be a clearly designated point person or office.

The Access to Public Records Act is a critical tool for individuals, good government groups and the media to monitor our government; we must bring this law up to date.