Effective January 1, 2017, “An Act to Improve Public Records” takes effect. This Act defines the nature of public records requests, allowable responses and the rights and methods of appeal.
The Massachusetts Public Records Law is a collection of statutes, including Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapters 66 and 4 and other “Exemption (a)” statutes.
What is a public record?
Virtually any document, including electronic documents, made or received by a public employee in his or her role as a public employee is a public record, subject to disclosure. Certain information, however, is exempted from disclosure. These exemptions are defined in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 4 Section 7 (clause 26), and other “Exemption (a)” statutes (for example, information regarding minors).
A public record is one that exists at the time of the request. Requests for records not currently in existence are not subject to the law. The law does not require the creation of creation of documents, analysis or reports to comply with public records requests.
How do I obtain a public record?
As a first step, we recommend checking our website, grotonma.gov. Check under the “Government” tab for Departments, Boards and Committees. The records you are looking for may be already published. If you don’t find the record, the next easiest step may be to talk with the government area you think may have it (for example, the Town Clerk’s Office for a copy of a vital record). If you don’t find your record, you may make a formal request. You do not have to follow these recommendations to make a formal request.
Public records requests may made verbally in-person (phone requests are not honored), or in writing by fax, email or mailed document. Written requests often clarify which records are being requested, and preserve the requestor’s rights of appeal.
Public records requests are valid for records which exist at the time of the request. Requests for special reports or for prospective records are not subject to the law.
Records pertaining to the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District must be requested from the District Offices (978-448-5505).
Municipal Records Access Officer
Requests for public records may be made to the Municipal Records Access Officer for the Town of Groton:
173 Main Street
Groton, MA 01450
Business phone: 978-448-1100
Business Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Hours: Monday 8:00am to 7:00pm; Tuesday – Thursday 8:00am to 4:00pm; Friday 8:00am to 1:00pm
What can you expect after you have submitted a public records request?
You will receive a response within 10 business days following the request. In most cases, that response will be the records you are requesting. It may be a request for clarification. It may be an estimate of the costs to produce the records being requested. It may be a denial of your request, and cite the specific exemption and reason why an exemption applies. Requests for public records must be resolved within 25 business days of the original request, unless extraordinary circumstances apply.
Are there fees involved in obtaining public records?
In most cases, no.
Large requests, requests requiring significant searching and copying, and requests requiring significant records review or redactions authorized under the exemptions may be charged. An estimate will be provided. The Town is allowed to charge $.05 for a standard black and white copy of a document, or the actual cost of reproduction for documents not susceptible to ordinary means of reproduction. Labor may be charged at an actual rate of the lowest paid person capable of performing the task (capped of $25.00 per hour).
Out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the Town are also to be reimbursed. Examples of the expenses are postage and copying fees for large documents such as a blueprint.
What if I don’t get the records I requested?
If you believe records are being withheld without justification, you may appeal to the Secretary of State Supervisor of Public Records or to Superior Court.
Supervisor of Records
Division of Public Records
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
MGL Chapter 66 – Public Records
MGL Chapter 4 (Section 7, Clause 26) – Exemptions
CMR 950 32 – Public Records Access Regulations
Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Public Records Division