Rhode Island was once last in region on public records access. It’s still playing catchup

A strong public records law, Marion said, “gives us a shot to see what’s going on, and potentially fix it.”

This article originally appeared in News from the States on March 11, 2024 and was written by Philip Eil.  

Below is John Marion’s comment on the urgent need for an update to Rhode Island’s Access to Public Records Act.

Government officials are always coming up with new ways to withhold information from the public, which prompts transparency advocates to respond with new ways to force disclosure and release, said John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island.

The constant tug-of-war in the fight over government information makes regular updates to APRA important.

“Because there [are] clever government lawyers figuring out how to withhold information, and then there [are] advocates trying to play whack-a-mole and knock down the loopholes that are being punched in the law,” Marion added.

“When the Providence Journal was printing newspapers and printing money, it could hire a law firm to go to court any time it was denied a record,” John Marion said. Now, with less litigation taking place on the public’s behalf, the law needs more muscle.

Without APRA, our local government would be a windowless building and taxpayers would have to accept whatever policies and press releases emerge from it, Marion said.

A strong public records law, he said, “gives us a shot to see what’s going on, and potentially fix it.”

To read the full article, click here.