PETER K. SULLIVAN Appellant
RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT Appellee
Plaintiff: Peter K. Sullivan, Pro Se.
Defendant: Gary Powers, Esq.
February 10, 2016, the Rhode Island Department of
Environmental Management's (RIDEM) Office of Boat
Registration & Licensing (the Division) denied Peter K.
Sullivan's application to renew his expired multi-purpose
commercial fishing license. Mr. Sullivan appealed that denial
to RIDEM's Administrative Adjudication Division (the
AAD). On April 18, 2016, via a written decision (the
Decision), the AAD affirmed and sustained the denial. Mr.
Sullivan timely appealed to this Court. Jurisdiction is
pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 42-35-15. For the reasons set
forth herein, the Court vacates the Decision and remands this
matter for further proceedings consistent with this decision.
outset, the Court notes that there is no transcript of the
April 5, 2016 hearing from which the Decision was rendered
(the Hearing). The following is a brief recitation of the
facts gleaned from the documents filed, including the
Sullivan is a resident of the Town of Bristol, Rhode Island.
Until December 31, 2009, he was the holder of Multi-Purpose
License # 000981 (the License). See Div.'s
Hr'g Ex. 2. On December 31, 2009, the License expired.
See id. On July 27, 2015-nearly five years and seven
months after the License had expired-Mr. Sullivan wrote a
letter to Margaret McGrath (Ms. McGrath), the Programming
Services Officer for the Division, requesting that he be
provided a waiver to renew the License despite his having
missed the application deadline. See Div.'s
Hr'g Ex. 5. Mr. Sullivan cited health issues and
doctors' advice as the basis for not renewing the License
sooner. See id. Mr. Sullivan also requested that he
be allowed to obtain a 65 and Over Shellfish License,
he would be turning sixty-five in approximately fourteen
months. See id.
letter dated August 17, 2015, Ms. McGrath responded and
explained that Mr. Sullivan's request to renew the
License would be denied in accordance with Rule
6.7-4 of the Commercial and Recreational
Saltwater Fishing Licensing Regulations (the Licensing
Regulations). See Div.'s Hr'g Ex. 6. Ms.
McGrath explained that because Mr. Sullivan "did not
possess a valid multi-purpose license as of 12/31/2014, [he
was] unable to obtain a multi[-]purpose [license] in
2015." Id. Likewise, Mr. Sullivan's request
to obtain a 65 and Over Shellfish License prior to reaching
the age of sixty-five was denied pursuant to Rule 6.8-6.
See id. Ms. McGrath advised Mr. Sullivan that he
could appeal the decisions to the AAD within thirty days of
his receipt of the letter. See id. Mr. Sullivan did
not appeal those decisions.
February 4, 2016, Mr. Sullivan filed a "2016
Multi-Purpose License Renewal Application" (the
Application) with the Division. See Div.'s
Hr'g Ex. 1. Mr. Sullivan included with the Application
letters from two doctors and landing records from 2009.
See id. The landing records purported to show that
the License was in use when Mr. Sullivan was physically able
to fish. See id. On February 10, 2016, Ms. McGrath
denied Mr. Sullivan's application on the grounds that he
"did not possess a valid multi-purpose license as of
12/31/2015." Div.'s Hr'g Ex. 2. Ms. McGrath
cited Rule 6.7-4(c) as the basis for the decision, and
informed Mr. Sullivan that he could appeal the decision to
the AAD within thirty days of his receiving the letter.
Id. On February 16, 2016, Mr. Sullivan appealed the
February 10, 2016 decision to the AAD. See
Div.'s Hr'g Ex. 3.
April 5, 2016, pursuant to §§ 42-17.7-1 et
seq., this matter came before the Hearing Officer to
determine whether the February 10, 2016 denial of Mr.
Sullivan's application violated the Licensing
Regulations. The Division was represented by counsel,
and Mr. Sullivan appeared pro se. Neither an
electronic nor a stenographic recording of the Hearing was
April 18, 2016, the Hearing Officer issued the Decision
denying and dismissing Mr. Sullivan's appeal, and
affirming and sustaining the Division's decision to deny
Mr. Sullivan's application. The Decision included
findings of fact and conclusions of law, and ultimately held,
"[b]ased on all of the facts, circumstances, and
evidence presented, " that "[Mr. Sullivan] failed
to sustain his burden of proof, by a preponderance of the
evidence, that the Division's determination and letter of
February 10, 2016 denying his request for renewal of his
Multi-Purpose Fishing License (#MPURP000981) violated the
Department of Environmental Management's Commercial and
Recreational Saltwater Fishing License Regulations."
13, 2016, Appellant timely filed the present appeal.
Superior Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the
decisions of administrative agencies pursuant to the Rhode
Island Administrative Procedures Act (APA), § 42-35-15.
See Champlin's Realty Assocs. v.
Tikoian, 989 A.2d 427, 434 (R.I. 2010). The Court's
review of an agency's decision is governed by the
standards set forth in § 42-35-15(g), which provides:
"(g) The court shall not substitute its judgment for
that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on
questions of fact. The court may affirm the decision of the
agency or remand the case for further proceedings, or it may
reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the
appellant have been prejudiced because the administrative
findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are:
"(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory
"(2) In excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
"(3) Made upon unlawful procedure;
"(4) Affected by other error or law;
"(5) Clearly erroneous in view of the reliable,
probative, and substantial evidence on the ...