State of Rhode Island



150 South Main Street- Providence, Rl 02903

(401) 274-4400


Peter F. Neronha


Attorney General




September 22, 2023

OM 23-21





Attorney Christopher R. Alger, Esquire

Legal Counsel, Pascoag Fire District



RE: Anonymous v. Pascoag Fire District


We have completed an investigation into the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) complaint filed by an anonymous member of the public (“Complainant”) against the Pascoag Fire District (“District”). For the reasons set forth herein, we find that the Committee did not violate the OMA.




The Complainant alleges that the District violated the OMA by convening non-publicly in order to discuss two topics. First, the Complainant alleges that on March 28, 2023, District Chairman Christopher Toti (“Chairman Toti”) “spoke at the RI State House against the legislation concerning the merger of … Fire Districts” and that because the District did not discuss this matter in advance of March 28, 2023, “a rolling meeting” must have transpired concerning this topic such that it could later be addressed by Chairman Toti. Second, the Complainant alleges that because the topic of “sell[ing] up to $200,000 in district assets” was included in the supplemental notice for a May 22, 2023 special District meeting “there was either a rolling meeting conduct (sic) or opening rules/laws violated (sic)” in advance of that meeting so that it could subsequently be included in the subject agenda.


Attorney Christopher R. Alger submitted a substantive response on behalf of the District. As to the first allegation, the District contends that Chairman Toti “never ended up testifying [about the merger] and left due to a prior commitment” and that he went to the State House on March 28, 2023 “in his personal capacity to testify against the bill.” As to the second allegation, the District argues that Chairman Toti set the agenda for the May 22, 2023 special meeting unilaterally, as he is allowed to do under the District bylaws. The District denies that any sort of non-public meeting transpired as to both issues. Appended to the District’s Response is two affidavits from Chairman Toti and a copy of the District’s bylaws.  


We acknowledge the Complainant’s rebuttal.


Relevant Law & 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 meetings of every public body “shall be open to the public.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-3. For the OMA to apply, however, a “quorum” of a “public body” must convene for a “meeting” as these terms are defined by the OMA. See Fischer v. Zoning Board of the Town of Charlestown, 723 A.2d 294 (R.I. 1999). Under the OMA, a “meeting” is defined as “the convening of a public body to discuss and/or act upon a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-2(1). A “quorum” is defined as “a simple majority of the membership of a public body.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-2(4).  All three of these elements — a quorum, a meeting, and a public body — must be present in order for the OMA to apply; the OMA is not applicable when one or more of these elements is absent. See Sirios v. Glocester Town Council, OM 20-50. 


Here, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the District met privately to address the Fire District merger issue or the sale of District assets. As an initial matter, the only District member specifically identified in the Complainant’s filings as having participated in an alleged “rolling meeting” is Chairman Toti. Based upon review of the District’s meeting minutes provided by the Complainant, the District consists of five (5) members. Because a quorum consists of a “simple majority of the membership” of the District, and because Chairman Toti is the only individual identified in the Complaint as allegedly having engaged in a non-public meeting, there is no evidence that a quorum discussed any issue outside of a properly noticed open meeting. Consequently, based on the record before us, we find that the solitary actions of Chairman Toti did not constitute a “meeting” as defined by the OMA. See Drix v. Providence City Council Finance Committee, OM 23-08 (finding that no “meeting” transpired, and thus there could be no OMA violation, when the Complainant failed to identify with specificity the members of the Committee alleged to have formed a quorum[1]).


Additionally, in a sworn statement, Chairman Toti attests to the fact that he “had no discussions with other board members [prior to the March 28, 2023 Fire District merger hearing]” and that although he ultimately did not end up testifying, he intended to do so in his “personal capacity, and not on behalf of the [District].” As to the selling of District assets, Chairman Toti states that “I set the agenda for this special meeting [alone]” because “[t]he bylaws grant the Chairman authority to set the agenda for special meetings.” Article II, Section 2, of the District’s bylaws support the same, setting forth that “the Chairperson of said [District] shall call a special meeting.” The Complainant does not dispute these attestations. See Hevey v. Coventry Town Council, OM 19-23 (“[g]iven these undisputed affidavits, we find no evidence [of] a rolling quorum”). 


Thus, based on the totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence that the District convened a non-public meeting to discuss the Fire District merger issue or the sale of District assets. As such, in these particular circumstances and based upon the uncontested sworn statements of Chairman Toti, we find no violation of the OMA.[2]




Although the Attorney General has found no violation as to this public body and will not file suit in this matter, nothing in the OMA precludes an individual from pursuing a complaint in the Superior Court as specified in the OMA. R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8(c). The Complainant may pursue an OMA complaint within “ninety (90) days of the attorney general’s closing of the complaint or within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged violation, whichever occurs later.” 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/ Adam D. Roach

Adam D. Roach

Special Assistant Attorney General





[1] We do not discount the possibility that there could be circumstances where the complainant is unable to identify the specific members alleged to have engaged in a rolling quorum but where there is nonetheless sufficient evidence to demonstrate that a rolling quorum occurred, but that was not the case in Drix and is not the case here.

[2] In Rebuttal, the Complainant states that “there must be discussion about selling assets at a general meeting wherein 30-day notice is provided … the special meeting was scheduled … without the 30-day notice.” This appears to be a reference to Article VII, Section 1 (b) of the District’s bylaws. This Office’s authority under the OMA is to enforce the provisions of that statute, and enforcement of a public body’s bylaws is outside the scope of our authority. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8.

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