State of Rhode Island



150 South Main Street- Providence, Rl 02903

(401) 274-4400


Peter F. Neronha


Attorney General




March 24, 2023

OM 23-04


Thomas Dubois



Michael Lepizzera, Esquire



Re:          Dubois v. Woonsocket City Council


Dear Mr. Dubois and Attorney Lepizzera:


We have completed our investigation into the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) Complaint filed by Mr. Thomas Dubois (“Complainant”) against the Woonsocket City Council (“Council”). For the reasons set forth herein, we find the Council violated the OMA.   




The Complainant alleges that the Council violated the OMA when it posted notice and convened a meeting on October 4, 2022, but then continued the meeting on October 5, 2022 without providing proper notice regarding the October 5, 2022 meeting.  The Complainant asserts that the Council voted on October 4, 2022 to end the meeting and continue it the next day. The Complainant further asserts that the potential votes listed on the October 4, 2022 agenda occurred during the October 5, 2022 meeting. The agenda for the October 4, 2022 meeting indicates that it was a special meeting pertaining to a complaint to remove the Mayor from office. The Complainant contends the Council’s violation was knowing because of a prior incident in 2020 where the Council cancelled a meeting because it had not been properly noticed.


The Council submitted a response[1] asserting that it complied with the OMA because the agenda for the October 5, 2022 meeting was posted on the City’s website. The Council also argues that the October 4 meeting was not adjourned but only recessed and reconvened, and thus notice did not need to be posted for the October 5 meeting as it was a continuation of the October 4 meeting. The meeting minutes provided by the Council demonstrate that during the October 5, 2022 meeting, the Council voted to sustain certain charges contained within a complaint seeking the removal of the Mayor from office and voted on a resolution approving the removal of the Mayor.


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, excluding weekends and holidays. 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. This supplemental notice (agenda) must be posted: (1) in the principal office of public body, (2) one other prominent location within the governmental unit, and (3) electronically on Secretary of State’s website. R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(c).


Here, the record is undisputed that the Council convened for a meeting on October 5, 2022 and did not post notice of that meeting 48 hours in advance of the meeting on the Secretary of State’s website or the other two locations specified in the OMA.


The Council proffers two arguments in support of its contention that it did not violate the OMA. First, the Council asserts that it posted notice on the Town’s website (seemingly on the same day that the meeting was held). This argument is a nonstarter as the OMA clearly provides that notice must be posted in the three locations specified in the OMA and at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. As such, posting notice on the City’s website does not comply with the OMA’s notice requirements.


Second, the Council asserts that it was not required to post notice of the October 5, 2022 meeting because it was a continuation of the October 4, 2022 meeting that was never adjourned. This Office previously analyzed an extremely similar argument. In Woonsocket Call v. North Smithfield Budget Committee, Opinion No. 91-08-14, 1991 WL 498708,[2] the Budget Committee argued that “since the March 13, 1991 meeting was properly noticed and never formally adjourned, it was not required under the Act to post notice of any subsequent meetings arising out of such meeting.” This Office rejected that argument. The Office interpreted R.I. Gen. Laws § 42–46–6(b) “to include giving notice of all ‘continuation meetings’ to the public” and found that “[t]o read an exemption into the Act for ‘continuation meetings’ would render the notice provisions a nullity.”[3] The finding noted a principle that we re-emphasize now, that “[t]he importance of the Act’s notice requirements cannot be over-emphasized. Citizens have the right to have public business performed in an open manner.”


We agree with the reasoning of this prior finding. The policy underlying the OMA is to ensure that “citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-1. This purpose would be defeated if a public body could schedule a so-called “continuation” meeting where public business is conducted without providing appropriate notice of that meeting. Unless a member of the public attended the first portion of the meeting in its entirety, or the public body pre-scheduled the “continuation” meeting, a member of the public would have no awareness that the public body had scheduled another date to meet and intended to conduct public business at a different date than originally noticed, in addition to the originally noticed date. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the Council violated the OMA by conducting a meeting on October 5, 2022 without posting notice of that meeting in accordance with the OMA. We note that the Council did not argue that the October 5, 2022 meeting satisfied the requirements of an emergency meeting or was conducted with less than the normal requisite notice pursuant to the emergency meeting provisions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(c). There is no evidence in the record before us that the Council complied with any aspect of the OMA notice requirements regarding the October 5, 2022 meeting or that there were any particular unusual circumstances present that would provide a basis for deviating from the normal notice requirements in this case.




The OMA provides that the Office of the Attorney General may institute an action in Superior Court for violations of the OMA. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8(a), (e).  The Superior Court may issue injunctive relief and declare null and void any actions of the public body found to be in violation of the OMA.  See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8(d).  Additionally, the Superior Court may impose fines up to $5,000 against a public body found to have committed a willful or knowing violation of the OMA. Id.


Here, we do not find injunctive relief to be appropriate. The Council did conduct a vote during the October 5, 2022 meeting regarding a complaint that had been filed regarding the Mayor and, relatedly, regarding removing the Mayor.  We are aware from public reporting that although the Mayor was removed as a result of that vote, the Mayor was subsequently re-elected and is currently Mayor of Woonsocket. We have not been provided with evidence or argument that there is any action that was taken as a result of the October 5, 2022 votes that remains effective and requires a remedy. As such, there is no appropriate injunctive action for this Office to require.


We also do not find that the violation was willful or knowing. The record indicates that the Council was operating under the (albeit incorrect) belief that it did not need to comply with the OMA’s notice requirements regarding the October 5, 2022 meeting because it was a continuation of the October 4, 2022 meeting. The fact that the public was provided notice of the business to be conducted (albeit for an October 4, 2022 meeting) means that the public was at least made aware that these potential votes would be taking place and anyone present at the October 4, 2022 meeting would be aware of the “continuation” meeting on October 5, 2022. Even though we find that this notice did not satisfy the OMA’s requirements, there was at least some form of public notice regarding the potential votes, which militates against a finding that the violation was willful or knowing. The Complainant references a 2020 meeting that he says the Council cancelled as evidence that this instant violation was willful or knowing, but we have not been provided with sufficient evidence about the circumstances of the 2020 meeting to find that it was similar to the circumstances at issue in this case or evidences willful or knowing conduct here. This finding serves as notice that the conduct discussed herein violates the OMA and may serve as evidence of a willful or a knowing violation in any similar future situation.


Although the Office of the Attorney General will not file suit in this matter, please be advised that 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 our file on this matter.


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







By: /s/ Katherine Sadeck

Katherine Sadeck

Assistant Attorney General





[1] The Council’s response was submitted by the Council’s former legal counsel. We have addressed this finding to the Council’s current legal counsel.

[2] As this is an older finding, its citation format is different from more recent findings.


[3] In that case, the finding went on to suggest that “[n]otice requirements can be met by announcing at the end of a particular meeting that such meeting will adjourn for the evening but reconvene the following evening at a particular time and location. Further, notice is required to be posted indicating to members of the public that a ‘continuation meeting’ is being held the following evening and informing them as to the time and location of such ‘continuation’ meeting.” We find this portion of the finding to be somewhat ambiguous to the extent it could be read as suggesting that notice requirements can be satisfied in a manner that is different than the notice provisions set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(b), which at a minimum require notice to be posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting. We also note that the finding was issued under a prior version of the OMA that did not contain a requirement for notice to be posted on the Secretary of State’s website. We find that the principal holding of this finding is its clear pronouncement interpreting R.I. Gen. Laws § 42–46–6(b) “to include giving notice of all ‘continuation meetings’ to the public.” In the circumstances of the case presently before us, we have not been presented with any evidence that there was any reason the Council could not have complied with the OMA’s notice requirements for its “continuation meeting.”


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