No OMA violation in dismissal of Bruce

No OMA violation in dismissal of Bruce

WOONSOCKET - The Woonsocket Budget Commission did not violate Open Meetings law when members agreed via email to let go of the city's former acting Finance Director Thomas Bruce, according to a ruling last week by the state Attorney General's office.

The ruling came in response to a complaint filed by Cumberland resident Brian Kelly in April, charging that the commission must follow OMA when making decisions regarding city employees, including filing a meeting notice with the Secretary of State's office.

Responding on behalf of the commission, attorney Edmund Alves admits that an email exchange resulted in Bruce's termination, but points out that the board is only subject to OMA on five specific matters.

The Attorney General's office agreed, ruling in favor of the commission for the third time since the board was formed with the mission of restoring the city's fiscal stability in 2012.

"Respectfully, the plain language of Rhode Island General Laws contradicts your argument," stated Special Assistant Attorney General Malena Lopez Mora in a response sent to Kelly June 11.

"Rhode Island General Laws 45-9-6 clearly defines the five instances under which the commission must comply with OMA," Mora said.

The state-appointed board must follow the state's open meeting law when discussing levy and assessment of taxes; rule making or suspension of rules; adoption of a municipal budget; approval of collective bargaining agreements; and making a decision that their powers are insufficient to restore fiscal stability.

"The termination of an employee does not fall into any of those five situations," Mora wrote.