Kilmartin sues fire district, alleges open meetings violations

Bryan Cohen Jun. 29, 2012, 9:44am


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Manville Fire District for allegedly failing to conduct meetings in a location accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The Manville Fire District allegedly engaged in three violations of the Open Meetings Act despite previous warnings and findings by Kilmartin's office. The fire district allegedly knowingly or willfully violated the OMA multiple times by failing to hold meetings at accessible locations.

"It is inconceivable that any public body would be unaware of its obligations to conduct meetings at a location that is accessible to all its citizens, especially those with disabilities," Kilmartin said. "Had the issues set forth in the previous findings been addressed in a timely manner, it is quite probable that the Fire District would be in compliance and not subject to this lawsuit and possible fine."

Kilmartin filed the lawsuit in Providence County on behalf of Marcel Desmarais.

The lawsuit alleges that on Dec. 14, Jan. 11 and Feb. 8, the Manville Fire District knew of its obligation to hold its meetings in an accessible location but failed to do so. The lawsuit seeks a maximum fine of $5,000 for each of the three incidents.

"It is my first hope and priority that public bodies comply with our open government statutes," Kilmartin said. "In this case, however, it is clear that the Manville Fire District refuses to comply with the OMA."

In addition, the state is seeking injunctive relief to order the Manville Fire District to hold all future meetings at accessible locations and to declare all actions taken during the cited meetings as null and void.

Kilmartin's office previously cited the Manville Fire District for violating the OMA when it failed to conduct its August and November meetings at accessible locations.

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