Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'Enemies Check' Delays City's Public Records Disclosure

Lawrence City HallImage by Mark Sardella via Flickr
Kudos to Atty. Bob Ambrogi's Media Law blog ( for highlighting the interesting approach the city of Lawrence takes to complying with Massachusetts' Public Records Law[M.G.L. c. 66, sec. 10(a)].

Pursuant to the statute, municipalities must reply to a records request within 10 days of receiving it and can't refuse to produce records based on the identity of the person seeking the records. Why, then, did Lawrence's city attorney take two months to respond to a request for city payroll records from The Boston Herald?

Because the city has numerous "enemies," and time was needed to investigate whether any nefarious ne'er-do-well was behind the request to learn the salaries of public employees funded by taxpayers.

Note to the city attorney interpreting the Commonwealth's Public Records Law:  unlike  '40s Hollywood gangster movies, when a reporter wearing a fedora inquires about the Mayor's salary, it's unacceptable to reply: "Who wants to know?"

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