AG finds Pawtucket school board violated OMA

AG finds Pawtucket school board violated OMA

PROVIDENCE – The Office of the Attorney General has determined that the Pawtucket School Committee violated the Open Meetings Act when members locked the door for an Aug. 6 meeting and failed to let Valley Breeze reporter Ethan Shorey in for approximately half of the meeting.

In a ruling issued Thursday, Lisa Pinsonneault, special assistant attorney general, set aside the School Committee's main contention that no one in the conference room at the central administration building heard the buzzer when Shorey pressed it.

"...The School Committee is required under the OMA to make sure its meetings are open and accessible to the public," states Pinsonneault. "While it is not clear why you (Shorey) could not access the meeting, it is clear that you could not access the meeting until the meeting was half over."

Pinsonneault said officials will not pursue a lawsuit or fine against the school board, saying they found "no evidence that the School Committee knowingly or willfully violated the OMA, though they "have concerns" based on the facts of a previous complaint from a former member of the Pawtucket School Committee. Joe Knight was locked out of a meeting back in 2011.

"Though injunctive relief (authoritative order) would be appropriate, we prefer to allow the School Committee the opportunity to remedy the violation on its own," states Pinsonneault.