Bryan Cohen Oct. 21, 2013, 4:58pm

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed a lawsuit against the city of Woonsocket for allegedly engaging in two knowing and willful violations of the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act.

Woonsocket allegedly violated the APRA when it failed to respond to a Dec. 21 request by the Law Offices of Michael Kelly in a timely response. The city also allegedly knowingly violated the APRA when it failed to provide documents responsive to the request or provide a reason for exempting the document. The request was related to the acquisition of land for a new water treatment plant.

The APRA gives a public body 10 business days to respond to a request for documents. If the public body denies the request, a written response detailing the reasons for the denial must be sent within the 10 business days.

Woonsocket explained its reason for failing to abide by the terms of the APRA was that it was short-staffed. In a supplemental finding, Kilmartin's office said it refused to allow public bodies to justify non-compliance with the APRA by simply asserting that they are short-staffed without any other explanation or evidence.

"We recognize that many cities and towns are struggling financially, but that cannot be held out as an excuse for failing to comply with the law," Kilmartin said. "Government has an obligation to its citizenry to be transparent and responsive. In this instance, as in the past, the city of Woonsocket failed to be both."

Each knowing and willful violation of the ARPA carries a maximum penalty of $2,000.

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