Rhode Island

The state’s Open Records Law treats electronic mail messages as a public record, except for messages sent by or to elected officials with or relating to their constituents or to elected officials in their official capacities. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(4)(i).

Three 2006 Attorney General Opinions discuss the possibility that e-mail exchanges between and among the members of a public body may, under certain conditions, constitute a violation of the Open Meetings Act. To be unlawful that way, the e-mail messages must involve a majority of the members of the public body and discussion or action relating to a matter over which that public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 42-46-2 and 42-46-5; In re Loparto v. Lincoln Town Council, 2006 WL 4563862 (R.I. Attorney General Opinion, May 19, 2006; In re McFadden v. Exeter/West Greenwich Regional School Committee, 2006 WL 4573866 (R.I. Attorney General Opinion, June 6, 2006); In re Cerullo v. West Warwick Town Council, 2006 WL 4573895 (R.I. Attorney General Opinion, Oct. 27, 2006).

Electronic messages are legally treated in the same way as other records in terms of retention and back-up by statute under R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-3-1 et seq. and regulation under R.I. Administrative Code 35-000-015.