Above: The article about an interview on which Callanan centers his OMA complaint.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Charles Callanan, a Republican who lost his bid for a seat on the Town Council earlier this month, has filed a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office, accusing Renu Englehart, Mike Donegan and Mike Zarrella of violating the Open Meetings Act when they together answered questions from the press Friday, Nov. 9, three days after they were elected to the Town Council. (Find the full video of the press conference here.)

Callanan shared his letter on Facebook.

Chad Callanan

In the interests of total transparency. I’m not happy about how things are moving forward. It is categorically wrong to be discussing the town business in such a manner,” he wrote, linking to an article and accompanying video that appeared in East Greenwich News Nov. 14. The three councilors-elect were interviewed by Bob Plain of R.I. Future and this reporter.

The new Town Council will not be sworn in until Monday, Nov. 26, but according to a ruling issued by the Attorney General in 1997 (Schanck v. Glocester Town Council, OM 97-03), members-elect are subject to the Open Meetings Act. The Schanck v. Glocester ruling is not available online but it is referenced in The Valley Breeze vs. Cumberland Fire Committee OM 15-04 ruling.

Spokeswoman for the Attorney General, Amy Kempe, said Tuesday the letter had been received. The next step would be send out acknowledgement of receipt and to determine whether or not it the issue raised falls within the purview of the OMA. If it does, then an investigation would ensue. Rulings can take months.

The 2016-18 Town Council was found in violation of the Open Meetings Act seven times between June and August 2017.

On Tuesday, the councilors-elect mentioned in the complaint responded.

It is unfortunate that Chad chose this as his response to the results of the election,” said Mike Donegan via email. “Contrary to his beliefs, the interview occurred exactly as reported and the interview is available for all to see. Openly answering questions is exactly what I intend to do as your councilman.”

“I’m sorry that Mr. Callanan feels that the OMA was violated,” said Renu Englehart via email. “Considering we did not discuss business amongst ourselves, but simply answered questions, and the entire thing was filmed, I think that there is little doubt that this was not an OMA situation. I think this is the same as when the EG GOP was at Main Street Coffee after the election which included 3 sitting members of the current council waiting for election results.”

“The whole purpose of the Open Meeting Act is to make sure the public is informed,” said Mike Zarrella. “This was not a meeting under the law. This was an informational session in which the press asked us questions and which we answered so our constituents would know where we stand.”


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