The Rhode Island Attorney General has ruled that the East Greenwich School Committee did not violate the open meetings act when members of the board asked a parent to leave the room during an executive session hearing at its Nov. 5, 2013 meeting.
In a letter to parent Yaohua Zhang, the AG's office said that the committee was within the laws of the Open Meetings Act and state laws in general when Zhang was asked to leave the room during an executive session, yet the superintendent was allowed to stay and address the committee.
Zhang was in the room for about 40 minutes and addressed the committee but was asked to leave as the committee debated Zhang's appeal of a matter before the committee (the details are redacted for privacy reasons).
Zhang was then invited back in to learn of the committee's decision, according to the AG's decision, but was denied access to the executive session minutes in March.
In the ruling, the AG ruled that the Open Meetings Act and the Access to Public Records Act apply to circumstances in which the public's interest is paramount. In this instance, the matter was of a "particular person's" interest, being Zhang.
The ruling does not rule out Zhang's ability to appeal the matter to Superior Court.
Zhang, reached by e-mail, said the issue has since been resolved after the committee meet in another executive session meeting on April 15.
Zhang said the issue was not pursued further because the matter was resolved by the committee at their meeting after a Rhode Island Department of Education hearing on March 25.
Zhang said the issue was raised because the decision making process, at the time, didn't seem neutral.
"It is not neutral when it includes one of the two parties during decision making process but exclude the other party. This was the reason I raised my concerns." Zhang said.To read the full decision, click "download PDF" next to the image to grab it.