August 21, 2018
For immediate release
Today Common Cause Rhode Island submitted testimony to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission in support of the changes to their procedures for releasing information when there is no finding of probable cause. That testimony asked the Commission to provide greater specificity when issuing such decisions.
Recent litigation requires the Ethics Commission to withhold the investigatory report created by Commission staff when a majority of Commissioners votes to not find probable cause to pursue a complaint. The lawsuit, filed by Antonio Fonseca of Greenville, Rhode Island, alleged that the Ethics Commission regulation requiring release of investigatory reports in instances when the Commission does not find probable cause violates a separate state law. At a February 2018 workshop the Commission asked the public for alternatives in the face of that litigation. Common Cause Rhode Island suggested substituting the release of an investigatory report with a separate document detailing the Commission’s rationale for not finding probable cause.
“Common Cause Rhode Island is pleased that the Ethics Commission is taking our suggestion and proposing to share information about ethics complaints even when they do not find probable cause,” said John Marion, executive director of the government watchdog group. Marion continued, “Even when a complaint is dismissed it’s in the public interest to know the Commission’s rationale so the public can decide if the decision was made without political favoritism.”
Common Cause’s testimony included suggested for improving the proposed rules change based on a 50-state study the group conducted earlier in 2018. That testimony is available online at http://commoncauseri.org/probable-cause
Common Cause Rhode Island is a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to promote representative democracy by ensuring open, ethical, accountable, effective government processes at local, state, and national levels by educating and mobilizing the citizens of Rhode Island.