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RI senator denied access to 38 Studios case documents

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Rhode Island state Senator James Sheehan's request for copies of documents pertaining to the case surrounding defunct developer 38 Studios has been denied by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation's attorney, reports the North Kingstown Patch.

Last month, Sheehan asked for copies of "all depositions and exhibits" related to the civil lawsuit filed against companies and individuals that were involved in the initial $75 million loan guarantee granted to 38 Studios in July 2010.

Sheehan, who is the state's Chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight, requested the documents — under the Access to Public Records Act — because he wanted to make the records available for the Oversight Committee's review. Making the documents available to the Oversight Committee would mean the information therein would be documented in the public record and would help government policymakers avoid a situation similar to that with 38 Studios in the future, he said.

Earlier this week, the attorney representing the RICC, Thomas E. Carlotto of law firm Shechtman Halperin Savage, denied the request, stating certain litigation defendants filed a motion for protective order in the Superior Court, blocking Sheehan from obtaining any documents. Carlotto wrote to Sheehan that "once a party moves for a protective order, this order shall act as a stay of the obligation to respond to the [APRA] request and the confidential material or attorneys' eyes-only material shall not be produced until the court rules on the motion."

Sheehan was "disappointed by the motion to stay public access to these documents" and plans to wait for a ruling from the Superior Court to determine the next course of action.

"The public and policymakers are entitled to know what transpired to bring about this failure," Sheehan said.

Earlier this week, R.I. Superior Court Judge Michael A. Silverstein denied financial advisory firm First Southwest's request to prevent further question of its senior vice president Maureen Gurghigian, who has already been questioned twice about her involvement in the $75 million 38 Studios loan guarantee. Lawyers representing the RICC will continue Gurghigian's questioning, though it has been limited to a one-day six-hour session.