Reporter Denied Records on Lincoln Chafee’s Son

     PROVIDENCE (CN) – Rhode Island need not divulge police records from a party at the home of Gov. Lincoln Chafee that landed a minor in the hospital, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.
     Chafee’s son Caleb, who pleaded no contest to furnishing underage persons with alcohol, hosted the Memorial Day party in May 2012. His record was expunged by March the next year.
     Though the host was 18, an underage girl at the party got so intoxicated at that she had to be taken to the hospital.
     Providence Journal reporter Amanda Milkovits requested access to the state police’s resulting 186 documents of investigative documents, calling it “a matter of transparency.”
     “It’s in the public’s interest to know how the situation was handled regarding the governor’s son – especially since the state police answer directly to the governor,” Milkovits wrote, as quoted in today’s decision.
     When the request was denied several times, the Journal filed suit that fall under the Access to Public Records Act (APRA).
     Superior Court Justice William Carnes ultimately sided with the state, however, finding no support for the Journal’s claim that a “government impropriety might have occurred.”
     Affirming 4-0 Monday, the Rhode Island Supreme Court said the Journal failed to provide “a shred of evidence” suggesting that police investigators acted improperly.
     “The public interest can, at best, be characterized merely as an uncorroborated possibility of governmental negligence,” the 16-page ruling by Judge Gilbert Indeglia states.
     Indeglia added that the sheer volume of records the Journal requested demonstrates the thorough investigation that the police conducted.
     “We cannot allow the Journal’s unsubstantiated assertion – pointing to the mere possibility that the government impropriety occurred in the investigation due to the then-governor’s position – to mandate disclosure of sensitive information,” the ruling continues.
     Former Rhode Island Gov. Chafee had been in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out of the race in October.
     A former U.S. senator, Chaffee had been governor for just over a year at the time of his son’s party. He left office after just one term, making him only the fourth governor to do so in Rhode Island history, the news site Smart Politics reported.

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