RI Fire District Settles Public Records Suit for $1500

A Rhode Island fire district has agreed to pay a $1500 fine for violating the state’s public records law.

The Manville Fire District was accused of failing to respond to a public records request from Daniel Desmarais back in 2014. Under the Access to Public Records Act, a municipal entity has ten (10) days to respond to a request.

Last month, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed suit against Manville to enforce the requirements of the APRA. The $1500 is a settlement of the suit.

Quoting from a press release issued by the AGs office today:

The Office of Attorney General determined the Fire Department violated the APRA in a finding issued on February 20, 2015 (DesMarais v. Manville Fire Department PR 15-08) and allowed the Fire Department the opportunity to address whether the untimely response was knowing and willful, or reckless. By supplemental finding dated April 13, 2015, the Office of Attorney General concluded that the violation was willful and knowing (DesMarais v. Manville Fire Department PR 15-08B) and subsequently filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court.

“Of all the requirements of APRA, the easiest to comply with is the mere act of responding to a request for documents. Yet, time and time again, public bodies fail to respond in a timely manner which often results in adverse findings, lawsuits and settlement checks. This settlement should serve as a reminder to all public bodies that this Office will continue to enforce the APRA,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

Here is a copy of the settlement agreement: ManvilleFireDepartmentSettlementAgreement

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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