Massachusetts Public Records Act
- 1 Relevant legal cases
- 2 Proposed changes
- 3 Massachusetts's transparency report card
- 4 Features of the law
- 4.1 Declared legal intention
- 4.2 What records are covered?
- 4.3 What agencies are covered?
- 4.4 Who may request records?
- 4.5 Must a purpose be stated?
- 4.6 How can records be used?
- 4.7 Time allowed for response
- 4.8 Fees for records
- 4.9 Role of the Attorney General
- 5 Open meetings
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
The Massachusetts Public Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Massachusetts. It is located at Part I, Title X, Chapter 66 of the Massachusetts General Laws.
The Massachusetts Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Massachusetts FOIA procedures.
Relevant legal cases
Here is a list of relevant lawsuits in Massachusetts (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).
|Attorney General v. School Committee of Northampton||1978|
|Bello v. South Shore Hospital||1981|
|Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington||1976|
|Connelly v. School Committee of Hanover||1991|
|District Attorney for the Plymouth District v. Board of Selectmen of Middleborough||1985|
|Gerstein v. Superintendent Search Screening Committee||1989|
|Ghiglione v. School Committee of Southbridge||1978|
|Globe Newspaper Co. v. Boston Retirement Board||1983|
|Hastings & Sons Publishing Co. v. City Treasurer of Lynn||1978|
|Pearson v. Board of Health of Chicopee||1988|
|Pottle v. School Committee of Braintree||1985|
|Yaro v. Board of Appeals of Newburyport||1980|
We do not have any legislation for Massachusetts in 2011.
We do not have any legislation for Massachusetts in 2010.
Massachusetts's transparency report card
A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Massachusetts #20 in the nation with an overall percentage of 54.30%.
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Massachusetts 31 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 43 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations
- Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
Declared legal intention
The Massachusetts law does not contain a clearly defined declared legal intention.
What records are covered?
- See also: Defining public records
Public records are defined as "all books, papers, maps, photographs, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee of any agency."
- Personal contact information of individuals who own firearms, law enforcement, youth services, social services and department of corrections personnel and victims of crimes
- Records that are required to be exempted in order to maintain the proper functioning of government (4-7-26-B)
- Medical files and other files that would result in an invasion of privacy (4-7-26-C)
- Memorandum relating to policies being developed (4-7-26-D)
- Law enforcement investigations (4-7-26-F)
- Trade secrets (4-7-26-G)
- Appraisals for potential property purchases (4-7-26-I)
- Examinations (4-7-26-L)
- Hospital contracts (4-7-26-M)
- Records that would jeopardize security (4-7-26-N)
- Home contact information of all state employees and their families (4-7-26-O, P)
- Adoption information (4-7-26-Q)
- See also: Deliberative process exemption
What agencies are covered?
- See also: Defining public body
State agencies are defined as any "agency, executive office, department, board, commission, bureau, division or authority of the commonwealth, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any authority established by the general court to serve a public purpose." While the first portion of the definition pertains to only the executive, the latter may be extended to include all governing bodies.
- See also: Legislatures and transparency
The Massachusetts General Court is explicitly exempt from the Massachusetts Public Records Act under Title X, Chapter 66, Section 18.
Privatized governmental agencies
The Massachusetts law does not contain any provisions that clearly bring private entities within the scope of the open records law. However, Bello v. South Shore Hospital established a potential test considering the private entities funding, function and whether a public body controls or manages the private entity. While none of these factors are required, the test considers them all to establish the possibility that the private entity is in fact a public body.
- See also: Universities and open records
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material are explicitly exempted at Mass. General Laws 4-7-26-L.
Who may request records?
Must a purpose be stated?
- See also: States requiring a statement of purpose
No statement of purpose is required when requesting records.
How can records be used?
- See also: Record use restrictions
No restrictions are placed on the use of records.
Time allowed for response
- See also: Request response times by state
Massachusetts' law allows 10 days for record responses.
Fees for records
- See also: How much do public records cost?
Reasonable fees for records may include the actual cost of duplication.
- See also: Sunshine laws and search fees
Reasonable fees for records may be charged to cover the actual cost of record searches.
Role of the Attorney General
- See also: Role of the Attorney General
The Supervisor of Public Records, authorized under Chapter 66 § 10(b) of the state's General Laws, "may notify the attorney general or the appropriate district attorney thereof who may take whatever measures he deems necessary to insure compliance with the provisions of this section." The state Attorney General decides on a case-by-case basis as to whether to take up court action in order to ensure compliance with the law. The Attorney General, however, is not authorized to request specific oversight of a public records request.
"All meetings of a governmental body shall be open to the public and any person shall be permitted to attend any meeting."
- Massachusetts FOIA procedures
- Massachusetts transparency advocates
- Massachusetts transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Open Meetings Act
- General Laws of Massachusetts Public Records
- General Laws of Massachusetts Open Meetings
- Open Government Guide to Massachusetts
- Past articles on Massachusetts
- 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- Massachusetts Statute 4-7
- Massachusetts Statute 66-10
- General Laws of Massachusetts, 66-10(a)
- Massachusetts Code 66-10
- Massachusetts Code 66-10
- Massachusetts Code 66-10
- Massachusetts G.L. c. 66, § 10(b)
- General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 39: Section 23B. Open meetings of governmental bodies
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