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The open government coalition ACCESS/RI — of which the New England First Amendment Coalition is a member — wrote a letter to East Greenwich, R.I., Town Council President Suzanne McGee Cienki today asking her to cancel tonight’s meeting.
ACCESS/RI believes the agenda for tonight’s meeting, specifically the item to ratify retroactively “all” the decisions of the town manager, violates the state’s Open Meeting Act requirement for public notice. That agenda item is a case of the council thumbing its nose at the public’s right to know what action the council is taking, the coalition argued.
On Nov. 8, Judge Susan McGuirl of the Rhode Island Superior Court issued a decision finding the East Greenwich Town Council violated the state’s Open Meetings Act. In her decision, Judge McGuirl wrote, “It is apparent that the Town Council willfully and knowingly violated the OMA,” and fined the council $2,000 as well as voided the council’s hiring of Town Manager Gayle Corrigan. Days after Judge McGuirl’s decision, the Town Council posted an agenda to once again hire Corrigan as Town Manager and to ratify “all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager from June 19, 2017.”
According to ACCESS/RI, it is insulting to all the residents of East Greenwich to see the Town Council doubling down on violations of the Open Meetings Act mere days after being found in violation of that statute. This agenda is a quintessential example of how not to be transparent with the public, the group said.
ACCESS/Rhode Island is a coalition of non-profit organizations and First Amendment advocates in the Rhode Island dedicated to ensuring government at all levels be accessible to the public. Founded in 1996, ACCESS/RI stands for “All Citizens Committed to Ending Secrecy within our State.” Member organizations include the Rhode Island Press Association, the ACLU of Rhode Island, Common Cause Rhode Island, the Rhode Island League of Women Voters, and NEFAC, along with journalism professors, television journalists and other First Amendment advocates.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.