State of Rhode Island



150 South Main Street- Providence, Rl 02903

(401) 274-4400


Peter F. Neronha


Attorney General




February 21, 2023

OM 23-02


Mr. Steve Ahlquist



Mr. Michael A. Calise

Senior Assistant City Solicitor



Re: Ahlquist v. Providence City Council Finance Committee


Dear Mr. Ahlquist and Attorney Calise:


We have completed our investigation into the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) Complaint filed by Mr. Steve Ahlquist (“Complainant”) against the Providence City Council Finance Committee (“Committee”). For the reasons set forth herein, we find the Committee did not violate the OMA.   




The Complainant takes issue with the meeting notice for the Committee’s October 27, 2022 meeting. The Complainant alleges that the notice “seems a pretty good notice of a public meeting, loaded with information. However, if you click on” certain links in the notice, what “you get are two PDFs, containing hundreds of addresses and tax breaks, but the data is presented statically, that is, there is no way to search the data or sort the data or do anything but plow through, line by line, looking for the information that may or may not be contained within.” The Complainant alleges that this “violates the spirit of the Open Meetings Act, which says that meetings should be described in a meaningful way so that the public can understand what is to be discussed at these meetings.”


The Committee submitted a substantive response noting that the allegation is technically moot because the meeting in question was rescheduled. Nonetheless, the Committee acknowledged that since “the meeting notice was amended to change the date of the meeting but is substantively similar to the original notice, we will address the issues raised in the Complaint.” Accordingly, this Office will treat this Complaint as pertaining to the Committee’s November 1, 2022 meeting, which was the date of the meeting following the postponement. The Committee asserted that the “gist of the Complaint is that the notice at issue did not sufficiently organize the notice’s supporting materials,” but that allegation does not assert a claim for the violation of any requirement contained within the OMA.


Relevant Law and Findings


When we examine an OMA complaint, our authority is to determine whether a violation of the OMA has occurred. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8. In doing so, we must begin with the plain language of the OMA and relevant caselaw interpreting this statute.


The OMA requires that all public bodies provide supplemental public notice of all meetings at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance of the meeting. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(b). “This notice shall include the date the notice was posted, the date, time and place of the meeting, and a statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed.” Id.


Here, the Complainant does not allege that the meeting notice failed to contain “the date, time and place of the meeting.”  Nor does the Complainant allege that any particular agenda item failed to provide notice of the nature of the business to be discussed. Rather, the Complainant takes issue with the organization of certain data attached to the agenda. This does not allege a violation of any provision of the OMA. Although public bodies are certainly encouraged to provide information and documents along with their meeting notices in order to provide additional information to citizens, nothing within the OMA requires public bodies to provide this additional information or to organize it in a certain way. This Office’s purview under the OMA is to investigate alleged violations of that statute. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8. We do not find that the Committee violated the OMA.




Although the Office of the Attorney General will not file suit in this matter, nothing within the OMA prohibits an individual from instituting an action for injunctive or declaratory relief in Superior Court. See R.I. Gen Laws § 42-46-8(c). The OMA allows the Complainant to file a complaint within ninety (90) days from the date of the Attorney General’s closing of the complaint or within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged violation, whichever occurs later. See id. Please be advised that we are closing this file as of the date of this letter.


We thank you for your interest in keeping government open and accountable to the public.







By: /s/ Katherine Sadeck

Katherine Sadeck

Assistant Attorney General




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