State of Rhode Island
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
150 South Main Street- Providence, Rl 02903
(401) 274-4400 www.riag.ri.gov
Peter F. Neronha
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VIA EMAIL ONLY
February 1, 2023
Ms. Melissa Travis
Matthew T. Jerzyk, Esquire
City Solicitor, City of Central Falls
Re: Travis v. City of Central Falls
Dear Ms. Travis and Attorney Jerzyk:
We have completed the investigation into the Access to Public Records Act (“APRA”) complaint filed by Ms. Melissa Travis (“Complainant”) against the City of Central Falls (“City”). For the reasons set forth herein, we find that the City did not violate the APRA.
On August 8, 2022, the Complainant submitted on APRA request to the City for “either access to examine or copies of your city’s bank statements and financial transfers to and from all Central Falls pension accounts for the years 2017 and 2018.” On August 23, 2022 the City responded by invoking a twenty (20) business day extension, as permitted under the APRA, due to “the extensive amount of research pertaining to your request.” Soon thereafter, on August 31, 2022, the Complainant filed the instant complaint, arguing that “needing to do more ‘research’ would not constitute a justification permitted under the APRA, nor should there be a need for any research. These are standard banking records that are easily accessible.” 
City Solicitor Matthew T. Jerzyk, Esquire provided a substantive response on behalf of the City. Appended to the the City’s Response were affidavits from Attorney Jerzyk, the City’s Human Resources and Law Department Clerk, and the City’s Finance Director.
The City submits that its invocation of the extension in order to conduct an “extensive amount of research” was warranted due to a number of factors, including the fact that the City’s Finance Department was “only in possession of a portion of the pension records” and thus had to “find the missing pension records.” The City’s process was complicated by the fact that it had “transferred its pension system to the Municipal Employees Retirement System many years ago” and had to “locate the City’s former actuarial adviser as well as … the City’s former financial institution which previously housed the pension assets.” Responsive records also had to be obtained from an “off-site storage system.” Given these constraints, as well as staffing limitations, the City contends that its “need for an extension for ‘extensive research’ is clearly borne out by the facts of this case.” The City’s Response also included a number of pieces of correspondence and documentary exhibits evidencing the City’s search and retrieval process.
When we examine an APRA complaint, our authority is to determine whether a violation of the APRA has occurred. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8. In doing so, we must begin with the plain language of the APRA and relevant caselaw interpreting this statute.
Upon receipt of a records request, a public body is obligated to respond in some capacity within ten (10) business days, either by producing responsive documents, denying the request with specific reason(s), or, for “good cause,” extending the time period necessary to comply an additional twenty (20) business days. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e). The public body may extend the time to respond by an additional twenty (20) business days if it can “demonstrate that the voluminous nature of the request, the number of requests for records pending, or the difficulty in searching for and retrieving or copying the requested records is such that additional time is necessary to avoid imposing an undue burden on the public body.” Id.
The Complainant argues that the City’s extension was improper because “research” does not constitute good cause to invoke an extension under the APRA, and because “research” was unnecessary in this instance, as the records “are standard banking records that are easily accessible.”
It is undisputed that the requested records were not “easily accessible.” The exhibits submitted by the City evidence that multiple telephone calls and emails were required following receipt of the Complainant’s request on August 8, 2022 in order to eventually fulfill the request on September 16, 2022. Several entities were involved in the search, retrieval, and review process, including the City’s Legal Department, Finance Director, Deputy City Clerk, an outside actuarial company, and a representative from Eastern Bank, among others. Because the request was for a “copy of [the City’s] bank statements,” the City had to review “15 bank accounts” for responsive records. The City was also required to obtain records from an off-site storage facility and “redact the account number from each page” of “400+ pages” of bank statements.
This Office has consistently held that invoking an extension under R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e) is lawful when good cause is shown and when the extension is particularized to the subject request. See Restivo v. Department of Health, PR 20-33 (no APRA violation wherein the public body invoked an extension due to the “voluminous nature of the request,” which was coupled with a prepayment estimate involving approximately 16 hours of work), see also Oliver v. EOHHS, PR 20-25 (no APRA violation wherein the public body invoked extension due to the “scope and breadth” of a request that initially sought “all work products” pertaining to specified statutory provisions).
Here, as in this Office’s prior findings, we find that good cause was shown by the City for invoking an extension and that, taken as a whole, it was particularized to the Complainant’s request. The evidence supports the City’s characterization that the request required an “extensive amount of research,” even if the word “research” did not precisely articulate the City’s internal processes. See Bath v. Rhode Island Office of Health and Human Services, PR 15-16 (noting that a letter extending the time to respond could have explained the extensions in a more “particularized” manner but finding no violation where correspondence did reference the subject-matter of the requests, and indicated additional time was required to allow staff to complete its search, retrieval, and production).
We find that the City did not violate the APRA when it extended the time to respond to Complainant’s APRA request. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e). While not part of our analysis, it is also significant that the City, without assessing any charge for search and retrieval as permitted pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-4, “redacted over 1,000 pages of responsive documents and … forwarded [them] to [the Complainant] … [on[ the 16th business day of the 20-day extension.” Based on the totality of the circumstances and the undisputed evidence before us, we find no violation.
Although the Attorney General has found no violation and has determined that it will not file suit in this matter, nothing within the APRA prohibits the Complainant from filing an action in Superior Court seeking injunctive or declaratory relief. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8(b).
We thank you for your interest in keeping government open and accountable to the public
PETER F. NERONHA
By: /s/ Adam D. Roach
Adam D. Roach
Special Assistant Attorney General
 The Complainant makes additional allegations directed at the City that are outside the scope of the APRA and will not be addressed in this finding. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8.