NEW: ACLU, Common Cause Criticize Chafee for not Releasing Report

Monday, March 11, 2013

 

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The Rhode Island ACLU and Common Cause both question whether Governor Chafee can legally withhold a report on waste and fraud by Ken Block.

Wasting little time crafting a joint response, Common Cause and the Rhode Island branch of the ACLU have both criticized Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee for his decision today not to release the findings of a report commissioned by Ken Block that investigated fraud and waste in state government programs involving Medicaid and food stamp benefits.

“Our organizations are deeply troubled by Governor Chafee’s decision to keep secret a report he commissioned, examining waste and fraud in the state’s Medicaid and food stamp programs,” the two organizations said. “We cannot conceive of any rationale under our state’s Access to Public Records Act for withholding this document from public view.”

The organizations said the only explanation that has been put forth by Chafee is that he does not want to jeopardize potential criminal investigations but said, that alone, is not justification for turning down a public records request.

“A document that is otherwise public cannot be withheld based on future investigations,” they said. “In fact, the open records law itself explicitly addresses this issue by providing that ‘all records initially deemed to be public records … shall continue to be so deemed whether or not subsequent court action or investigations are held pertaining to the matters contained in the records.’ ”

Common Cause and the RI ACLU say it may be possible to withhold portions of the reports but not the entire document itself.

“While it is possible that there may be particular portions of the report that are exempt from disclosure under APRA, the complete withholding of this document is, in our view, a clear violation of the law,” they said. “The Governor’s decision in favor of secrecy also undermines the goal of transparency in government that he has touted since he has been in office. We urge the Governor to abide by both the spirit and letter of the open records law and release this document to the public.”
 

 

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