Attorney advises East Providence Council-Elect not to meet

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EAST PROVIDENCE — Due to vagaries in Rhode Island General Law, Assistant City Solicitor Robert Craven advised the City Council-Elect not to conduct an executive session scheduled for Saturday morning, Nov. 17.

Mr. Craven, himself newly-elected to the General Assembly from House District 32 in North Kingstown, said after being informed of the planned meeting he recommended to the incoming Council members they should not hold the executive session, which had been posted on the Secretary of State's website Thursday, Nov. 15.

"In reference to the meeting that was supposed to be held by the City Council-Elect this morning, I met with them and I advised them not to meet because of ambiguities under the Open Meetings Act," Mr. Craven said early Saturday afternoon.

"I was told of the meeting and did some research on the matter last night (Friday, Nov. 16)," Mr. Craven continued. "And I advised them not to meet. There were no clear exceptions to the act, which gave them the ability to meet or to go into executive session."

Mr. Craven said the five new Councilors — James Briden, Tracy Capobianco, Helder Cunha, Thomas Rose and Christine Rossi — stressed to him their desire to act according to state law. The Council-Elect planned to meet to discuss the numerous appointments they'll need to make upon being seated on Dec. 4. Their elections were certified on Nov. 15.

"They could have met in open session to discuss the appointments, but then they would have had to have each person involved be present or they could have requested to each to have the meeting in a closed session," Mr. Craven explained. "The Council-Elect had no desire to do anything that wasn't above board, so I advised them not to go into session. If they did meet, they may have been in violation of state law or they may have been making new law."

Mr. Craven said the existing gap in state law, which leaves Council-Elects in a form of "limbo" from the time their elections are certified to the time they are seated, is something the legislature should address. The East Providence Council-Elect requested he do so in his future capacity as a member of the General Assembly.

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