The Party of Open: Open Government, Open Culture, Open Innovation & People First

Nope, No Public Records Enforcement Here

Before last November’s election, the Bay State Examiner did a story about a debate between candidates for Secretary of the Commonwealth. One of the paragraphs that caught my attention was a quote from Green Party Candidate Danny Factor

But, for the past four years, Galvin’s office has refused to refer any cases to the attorney general’s office. The two agencies have point fingers at each other, with Galvin claiming that the attorney general’s office doesn’t consider the public records law to be a priority and the attorney general’s office denying it.

I found this statement rather surprising, since the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office is supposed to be the champion of our public records laws. This led me to file a pair of public records requests: one to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and one to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. The requests are trying to get both sides of a story. One asks the Secretary of the Commonwealth how many public records cases they’ve referred to the AG during the first half of 2014:

Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 15:47:52 -0500
To: pre@sec.state.ma.us
Subject: Massachusetts Public Records Request

Supervisor of Records
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth

Dear Supervisor:

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10). I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:

Copies of all notification letters sent to the Attorney General under 950 CMR 32.09 (Enforcement of Orders), during the period January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014.

I recognize that you may charge reasonable costs for copies, as well as for personnel time needed to comply with this request. If you expect costs to exceed $10.00, please provide a detailed fee estimate.

I would prefer to receive responsive documents in electronic form.

The Public Records Law requires you to provide me with a written response within 10 calendar days. If you cannot comply with my request, you are statutorily required to provide an explanation in writing.

The other request asks the Attorney General’s office how many enforcement requests they received during the same time period.

Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 15:54:54 -0500
To: ago@state.ma.us
Subject: Massachusetts Public Records Request

Keeper of Records
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

Dear AGO:

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10). I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:

– Copies of all notifications received under 950 CMR 32.09 (Enforcement of Orders), during the period January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014.

I recognize that you may charge reasonable costs for copies, as well as for personnel time needed to comply with this request. If you expect costs to exceed $10.00, please provide a detailed fee estimate.

I would prefer to receive responsive documents in electronic form.

The Public Records Law requires you to provide me with a written response within 10 calendar days. If you cannot comply with my request, you are statutorily required to provide an explanation in writing.

For the curious, 950 CMR 32.09 is the “Enforcement of Orders” clause in Massachusetts’ public records law:

A custodian shall promptly take such steps as may be necessary to put an order of the Supervisor into effect. The Supervisor may notify the Attorney General or appropriate District Attorney of any failure by a custodian to comply with any order of the Supervisor.

The Attorney General’s office responded 10 days later, on November 26th.

Dear Mr. Revilak:

This letter is in response to your public records request made pursuant to the Massachusetts Public Records Law, G.L. c. 66. Sec. 10. In an e-mail to this Office’s general correspondence address on November 16, 2014. you requested copies of records held by the Office of the Attorney General (AGO), specifically the following:

Copies of all notifications received under 950 CMR 32.09 (Enforcement of Orders), during the period January 1. 2014 through June 30, 2014.

Please be advised that the AGO has no records that are responsive to your request.

The Secretary of the Commonwealth responded on Dec 2 (one week outside the statutory 10-day window for responding):

Dear Mr. Revilak:

I have received your email dated November 16, 2014 requesting copies of letters sent to the Office of the Attorney General (AGO). Specifically, you requested “Copies of all notification letters sent to the Attorney General under 950 CMR 32.09 (Enforcement of Orders), during the period January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014”.

The Public Records Law strongly favors disclosure by creating a presumption that all governmental records are public records. G. L. c 66, Sec. 10(c); 950 C.M.R. 32.08(4). “Public records” is broadly defined to include all documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee of any town of the Commonwealth, unless falling within a statutory exemption. G. L. c.4, Sec. 7(26).

Subsequent to a review of our files there are no records responsive to your request.

Both sides agree: there were no public records enforcement referrals during the first six months of 2014.

In the grand scheme of things, six months in not a very long period of time. However, we are home to the Massachusetts ACLU, Muckrock, and a host of major news organizations. Surely there should be at least one public records request that created a dispute. I’m glad to hear the Secretary’s office believes that “the Public Records Law strongly favors disclosure by creating a presumption that all governmental records are public records”, but I’m going to side with Danny Factor: they could do a much better job at championing public records law.

Primary Source documents: Public Records Enforcement Response.


Commenting this article is not (or no longer) possible.

Further information

Worcester Pirate Meetup, 4/28

March Pirate Meetups

Sign the Moratorium on Boston Sex Worker Arrests Petition

Sign the Moratorium on Boston Sex Worker Arrests Petition

Help Build the Pirate Party

Help organize a local Pirate chapter

IRC Meetings Wednesday Night

The Mass. Pirate Party weekly chat is every Wednesday at 9pm, Eastern time. To get on:

  1. Go to https://webchat.pirateirc.net/
  2. Fill out the web form with the Nickname of your choice and enter #masspirates in the Channel box next to it, then click the Connect button
  3. Start typing and reading

You can also connect via your IRC client at one of the servers listed at http://pirateirc.net/servers.

Contact us

email: info@masspirates.org
call / txt: (617) 863-6277 (MAPP)

Pirate Gear

Keep in Touch

Sign up for the Mass Pirates Newsletter.

Search