National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Opinion: We must not allow government secrecy in Rhode Island

Rhode Island was the 49th state in the country to enact an open records law, and that reluctant show of support for government transparency still demonstrates itself in numerous ways.

Regrettably, when even the courts fail to vigorously enforce that law, the public’s right to know is bound to suffer significantly. The Rhode Island Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Caleb Chafee case highlights that.

Chafee was charged with, and paid a fine for, providing alcohol to a minor during a house party he hosted on property owned by his father, then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee. In light of the incident’s high-profile nature, The Providence Journal asked the State Police for copies of their voluminous investigatory records, 186 pages' worth. This Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request was denied on the grounds that their release would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court agreed. Continue…