Today, Sue Cienki, Chairwoman of the R.I. Republican party, filed an open meetings complaint against the Reapportionment Commission for their flagrant disregard of the Open Meeting law. There is no doubt that the Reapportionment Commission failed to follow the law. The only question left is whether Attorney General Peter Neronha will actually enforce the law by holding the Commission accountable.

An excerpt from the complaint is below:

An excerpt from the complaint is below:

“The Rhode Island Special Commission on Reapportionment is subject to the Rhode Island Open Meetings Act.  This Commission committed at least 36 violations of the Open Meetings Act in five different categories over approximately four months. First, on January 12, 2022, the Commission voted on reapportionment maps without providing adequate notice to the public specifying which maps they would vote on in violation of R.I.G.L.§42-46-6(b). Second, on January 5, 2022, the Commission voted to create maps based on the reallocation of some prison inmates without any notice they would vote on the issue in violation of R.I.G.L.§42-46-6(b). Third, it appears that a majority of Commission members discussed the issue of the reallocation of prison inmates, either directly or through a conduit, outside of an open meeting in order to arrive at a compromise, which was voted on at the meeting of January 5, 2002 in violation of R.I.G.L.§42-46-3. Fourth, the Commission has not provided minutes of 15 meetings, within 35 days of the meeting occurring, in violation of R.I.G.L.§42-46-7(b)(1). Fifth, the Commission has failed to electronically post notices of any of its 18 meetings with the Secretary of State in violation of R.I.G.L.§42-46-6(c). Also, notices for three of these meetings were legally defective for other reasons as well. At various instances, the Commission ignored warnings that it may not be in compliance with the Open Meetings Act. 

This is perhaps the most consequential open meetings complaint the Attorney General has received in many years. The Commission committed numerous open meeting violations in a variety of ways over a short period of time. The Commission committed these violations despite warnings about its conduct. No public body has shown such a disregard for the Open Meetings Act in recent memory.

The Attorney General must hold the Commission accountable by filing a court action. It should determine that the Commission knowingly and willfully violated the Open Meetings Act, and then seek to fine the Commission, its officers, and any commissioners who engaged in a rolling quorum. If the Attorney General does not hold the Commission accountable, public officials will not worry about whether their conduct is legal or illegal, but whether they can get away with it or not.” 

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