UPDATE: Valley Breeze v. Pawtucket School Committee
Lisa Pinsonneault, special assistant attorney general for the state of Rhode Island, has informed me that her office is now proceeding with an investigation of my open records complaint against the Pawtucket School Committee.
On Aug. 8, I informed the attorney general's office that I had been locked out of a School Committee meeting on Aug. 6. I repeatedly hit the buzzer at the entrance of the school administration building, an alternative site for school board meetings, and also banged on the door a number of times. It wasn't until 14 minutes into what ended up being a 28-minute meeting that someone unaffiliated with the school board finally let me in. School Committee members would later say that they heard nothing.
The following is an excerpt from my Aug. 8 complaint:
"This is not the first time the Pawtucket School Committee has had an issue with keeping people from attending its meetings. I contend that locking people out of the building is having a chilling effect on public participation and the right of the people to know what their elected officials are doing, especially since the committee no longer records its meetings. Whether or not school board members can hear the buzzer or not, there needs to be a system in place to ensure that people are not turned away from what is supposed to be an open meeting. Most citizens would not be as persistent as I was."
This complaint was not filed because I think there was some grand conspiracy to have a closed-door discussion. From those I've talked with, there were no major decisions made or highly controversial items discussed during the time I was locked out. But, as I hinted at in my complaint, those who serve on public bodies in Rhode Island have a responsibility to the people they serve to be as open and transparent about their dealings as possible. If that means posting someone at the door for the entire meeting, or even leaving the door unlocked, then that's what they need to do.