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PR 00-07 MARAIA V. CITY OF CRANSTON

Posted: 2000-04-24


Unofficial Finding PR00-07
April 24, 2000
Mr. Joseph A. Maraia
Cranston, RI 02920

RE: MARAIA V. CITY OF CRANSTON
OUR FILE NO.: PR 99-0460
Dear Mr. Maraia:

The investigation into your Access to Public Records Act (APRA) complaint filed September 11, 1999, against the City of Cranston is complete . By letter dated August 5, 1999, you wrote to Purchasing Director for the City of Cranston, Mrs. Alicia Connoughton, and requested “[a]ny and all tapes of the minutes of the Board of Contracts and Purchases meetings from May until the present.” Furthermore, by letter dated September 1, 1999, you wrote to Mayor John O’Leary and referenced two additional requests. Specifically, your correspondence to Mayor O’Leary referenced a July 28, 1999 letter to Mr. Jack Leydon, the Building Inspector, and requested the following information: (1) a list of all building permits issued between December 30, 1998 to the present not expedited; (2) the names of individuals that applied for these permits; (3) the name of the inspector who reviewed and approved the non-expedited permits; and (4) the name of the inspector(s) who approved the expedited permits and the names of the individuals who applied for the expedited permits. In addition to your reference to the July 28, 1999 request, your letter to Mayor O’Leary also refers to a June 28, 1999 letter to Mr. Steve Woerner, the Director of Finance, and requested the following information: (1) a list of all City employees in the Building Inspection Department receiving overtime compensation from the “Plan Review Expediting Fee” schedule; (2) the total amount of expediting fees collected for fiscal year 1996, fiscal year 1997, and fiscal year 1998; (3) the exact amount of expediting fees used for overtime payroll purposes; (4) the name of supervisor(s) who approved the overtime and the process used to verify the over time (5) the percentage of the overtime pay used for Federal, State, City taxes, as well as for contribution to pension systems, and medical coverage; and (6) the method, time, and names of individuals who authorized the collection of expediting fees.
Mr. Joseph Maraia April 24, 2000
RE: MARAIA V. CITY OF CRANSTON PAGE 2
OUR FILE NO.: PR 99-0460

In response to your complaint, we received a substantive response from the City Solicitor, William G. Brody, Esq. With respect to your request concerning access to tape recordings of meetings of the Board of Contracts and Purchases, Mr. Brody relates that “Mr. Maraia was provided full access to all such recordings.” As support for this statement, Mr. Brody references a September 1, 1999 letter from Ms. Connaughton, which invites Mr. Maraia to listen to the tapes of the Board of Contracts and Purchases meetings. With respect to the remainder of your complaint, Mr. Brody relates that “Mr. Maraia requested certain information regarding the application of the expediting fee and the use of the proceeds. The City Administration was also interested in reviewing the same information and requested the Building Inspector and the Finance Director to compile the same. When the information was compiled, the Building Inspector met with Mr. Maraia and reviewed with him the available documents related to the fee. Mr. Maraia was also given information, which had to be extracted from other sources, to answer his other inquiries. For example, he was advised that financial records show that a total of approximately $30,000 had been collected through the fee system, and that approximately $13,000 had been used to cover overtime wages paid to one employee for after-hours time spent on the building permit project.”

The APRA provides that all documents made or received in connection with the official business of an agency are public records, unless otherwise exempt. R.I.G.L. § 38-2-2 (4)(i). Furthermore, the APRA does not require “a public body to reorganize, consolidate, or compile data not maintained by the public body in the form requested at the time the request to inspect the public records was made.” R.I.G.L. §38-2-3 (f).

Based upon the evidence presented, specifically, Mr. Brody’s representation that after the information was compiled “the Building Inspector met with Mr. Maraia and reviewed with him the available documents related to the fee”, we find no violation. We also observe Mr. Brody’s representation that “Mr. Maraia was also given information which had to be extracted from other sources to answer his other inquiries.” Since it appears from the evidence presented that you have been provided access to all the requested information, we find no violation. Despite the foregoing, we find that the City violated a portion of the APRA by failing to respond to your request (or extending the time period for a response) within the ten (10) business days permitted. RI Gen Laws 38-2-7. In the future, the City should adhere to this requirement.

Nothing within the APRA prohibits an individual from retaining legal counsel for the purposes of instituting injunctive or declaratory relief in the Superior Court. See R.I.G.L. § 38-2-8. If you have not been provided access to the requested documents, you should contact the undersigned within ten (10) business days.


Mr. Joseph Maraia April 24, 2000
RE: MARAIA V. CITY OF CRANSTON PAGE 3
OUR FILE NO.: PR 99-0460

Please be advised that we are closing your file as of the date of this letter. We thank you for your interest in keeping Government open and accountable to the public.



Very truly yours,



Tricia K. Jedele
Special Assistant Attorney General
Ext. 2400

TKJ:cc

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