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 21, 2023
Mr. Greg Brailsford
Mr. Frank J. Milos, Jr., Esquire
Solicitor, City of Pawtucket
Re: Brailsford v. City of Pawtucket
Dear Mr. Brailsford and Attorney Milos:
We have completed our investigation into the Access to Public Records Act (“APRA”) Complaint filed by Mr. Greg Brailsford (“Complainant”) against the City of Pawtucket (“City”). For the reasons set forth herein, we find that the City did not violate the APRA.
The Complainant sent an APRA request to the City seeking certain records related to “speed camera” tickets. The Complainant received a response from the City at 5:50p.m. on the tenth business day after he submitted his request. The Complainant does not take issue with the substance of the City’s response, but submitted this Complaint because he questioned whether the response was timely since it was sent after business hours on the tenth business day.
The City submitted a substantive response asserting that the Complainant had submitted his APRA request to the City’s Constituent Services and Communications Associate, Emily Rizzo, which is not in compliance with the City’s APRA procedures. The City provided a link to its website which sets forth the procedures for submitting an APRA request and specifies that requests should be sent to the Law Department. These procedures do not provide for requests to be submitted to Ms. Rizzo. The City asserts that the APRA request initially went to Ms. Rizzo’s “junk” email folder. Although Ms. Rizzo periodically checks her “junk” folder, she did not become aware of the request until after 4:30p.m. on the tenth business day. The City asserts that even though the request had not been properly submitted, the City responded on the tenth business day, after hours. The City asserts that it did not violate the APRA because the request was not submitted in accordance with the City’s APRA procedures and because the City responded on the tenth business day once it became aware of the request. The City notes that its usual practice is to respond to APRA requests by the close of business hours on the tenth business day.
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.
The APRA states that, 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 reason(s), or extending the time period necessary to comply. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3.
The APRA mandates that “[e]ach public body shall establish written procedures regarding access to public records,” and these procedures must include “the identification of a designated public records officer or unit, how to make a public records request, and where a public record request should be made, and a copy of these procedures shall be posted on the public body’s website[[.]” R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(d).
The record in this case demonstrates that pursuant to this authority, and in accordance with the APRA, the City promulgated APRA procedures. The City contends and the Complainant does not dispute that the APRA request was not submitted in accordance with the City’s APRA procedures. The evidence reveals that once the City became aware of the APRA request, it promptly took steps to respond to it, even though the request was not submitted in accordance with its procedures.
We conclude that since the Complainant’s APRA request was not made in accordance with the City’s promulgated and posted APRA procedures, we find no violation. See Kleinman v. South Kingstown School Committee, PR 22-20 (finding no violation where it was undisputed request was not submitted in accordance with posted procedures); Reale v. Office of the Governor, PR 21- 15 (finding no violation where the Complainant did not submit his APRA request in accordance with the Governor's Office posted procedures); Shapiro v. Town of Warren, PR 15-39 (finding no violation where the Town of Warren failed to respond to an APRA request where the request was submitted to the Town Manager instead of the Town Clerk where the Town Clerk was the Town's designated public records officer in accordance with the Town's established procedures); Stafford v. Rhode Island Family Court, PR 11-13 (finding no violation where the Rhode Island Family Court failed to respond to a request for public records in a timely manner since the request was not made pursuant to the Court’s established APRA procedures). Accordingly, we find it unnecessary to formally analyze whether a public body may respond to APRA requests after business hours on the tenth business day.
Although this Office has found no violation, nothing within the APRA prohibits an individual or entity from instituting an action for injunctive or declaratory relief in Superior Court as provided in the APRA. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8(b). Please be advised that we are closing this file as of the date of this letter.
We thank you for your interest in keeping government open and accountable to the public.
PETER F. NERONHA
By: /s/ Katherine Sadeck
Assistant Attorney General
 Ms. Rizzo became aware of the request after she was copied on a 4:54p.m. email from the Complainant to this Office on the tenth business day asserting that the City had failed to timely respond to the APRA request. At that time, this Office responded by explaining that the Complaint was not yet ripe because a public body has ten business days to respond to an APRA request and it was still the tenth business day.