RI Supreme Court: Laramie Removal from School Building Committee Illegal

In an interesting “all politics is local” case, the Rhode Island Supreme Court – in Foster Glocester Regional School Building Committee et al v. Steven A. Sette et al. – affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment in granting declaratory relief but vacated the preliminary injunction because the Court concluded that the need for the injunction no longer existed.

The defendants were four members of the Glocester Town Council who voted to remove the plaintiff, Gregory Laramie, from his position on the Foster-Glocester Regional School Building Committee (RBC) by declaring his seat on the RBC vacant.  The defendants contended that the Glocester Town Charter expressly empowers the Glocester Town Council with the authority to remove those members of the RBC whom the Glocester Town Council has appointed or to fill vacancies on the RBC when they arise.  Alternatively, the defendants argued that the Glocester Town Council nonetheless possesses this authority by implication because the authority to appoint a member to the RBC necessarily implies the authority to remove him or her.

The Supreme Court first considered the Superior Court’s grant of declaratory relief to the plaintiffs.  The Court determined that the Glocester Town Charter did not empower the Glocester Town Council to remove members of the RBC because although the Glocester Town Charter grants the Glocester Town Council the authority to remove members of the boards, commissions, and committees of the Town of Glocester, the RBC is not a board, commission, or committee of the Town of Glocester.

Consequently, any authority for the Glocester Town Council to remove members of the RBC, or to declare seats on the RBC vacant and appoint new members, must derive from the legislation that created the Foster-Glocester Regional School District and the RBC, to wit, Public Laws 1958, chapter 109.  Section 4 of Public Laws 1958, chapter 109, authorized the Glocester Town Council to appoint three members to the RBC and to appoint a replacement in the event of a vacancy.  But the Court held that § 4 was silent about whether any member of the RBC can be removed from office.  Also, the statute set a term for the life of the RBC, but did not provide a term for its members.  In the Supreme Court’s judgment, nothing in § 4 authorized the Glocester Town Council to remove RBC members whom they had appointed.

The Supreme Court, however, vacated the preliminary injunction because, after having declared that the Glocester Town Council did not possess the authority to remove members of the RBC, the need for injunctive relief ceased to exist.

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