Rhode Island FOIA Laws

Rhode Island Open Meetings Act

The Rhode Island Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 42-46 of the Rhode Island General Laws define the law. The law states that a meeting is any convening of a public body to discuss or decide upon public business. The law explicitly includes in this definition all “workshop,” “working,” or “work” sessions. If violated, the court may void any action taken during the meeting in question and assess fines of up to $5,000.

Open Meetings Act  R.I. Gen. Laws §§42-46-1

Closed: Certain personnel matters; collective bargaining; litigation; security; real estate transactions; school committees; student disciplinary hearings; and student records.

Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act

The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act, first enacted in 1979, is a law that guarantees access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Rhode Island. The act is defined in Chapter 38.2 of the Rhode Island General Laws and has been significantly revised in 1991, 1998 and 2008. Public records are all documents, no matter their physical form that are “made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.”

Anyone can request public records, and no statement of purpose is required. According to the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act  §38-2-6, it is illegal to use information obtained from public records to “solicit for commercial purposes, or to obtain a commercial advantage over the party furnishing that information to the public body.” Rhode Island law allows 10 days for a public body to deny a request. If the agency does not respond within 10 days, it is deemed a denial.

Access to Public Records Act R.I. Gen. Laws §§38-2-1

Exempt: Presumption of disclosure with few exemptions.

Visit, Rhode Island Sample FOIA Request, to view a sample FOIA request for the state.