With the controversial hiring by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration of former Democrat State Representative Donald Lally, the Ocean State Current requested any related documents. Here is the administration’s response:
This letter is in response to your Access to Public Records Act request received by the Office of the Governor on September 14, 2015. You requested:
“Under APRA (if necessary), may I have all documents related to Donald Lally hiring, please? Including but not limited to:
* Any contracts or agreements related to his employment.
* Correspondence and summaries of meetings or phone conversations prior to his hiring.
* Correspondence and summaries of meetings or phone conversations related to his official activities.”
This letter serves as a response to your request.
Our office has completed a thorough review of the requested materials. There are materials that are responsive to your request but are being withheld, as they are not deemed “public.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(4). Those records not deemed public include “[a]ll records relating to a client/attorney relationship…” and “[p]reliminary drafts, notes, impressions, memoranda, working papers, and work products; provided, however, any documents submitted at a public meeting of a public body shall be deemed public.” R.I. Gen. Laws §38-2-2(4)(A)(I)(a),(K).
Since its passage, the updated Access to Public Records Act has mainly become a means of limiting information available to the public. First, it filters all information requests through a single, legalistic choke point for each public entity. Second, it insinuates that anything that is not explicitly listed as “public” should not be made available.
Governor Raimondo is not barred from releasing the information that she has; she is just choosing not to release it, with the claim that not a single document related to the ethics-skirting hiring of Lally (on the recommendation of Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello) falls outside of the extremely broad exceptions of the law. To press the issue, an organization like The Current would have to spend time and resources appealing first to Raimondo’s appointed chief of staff and then to Democrat Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.