5 Investigates: Most Mass. cities and towns fail public records test
WCVB TV - 12/28/2015
The majority of cities and towns in Massachusetts failed to live up to the requirements of the state’s public records law when put to the test in a joint project by 5 Investigates, The Boston Globe and Northeastern University School of Journalism.
The test, believed to be the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the state, began with a simple request to each city and town in the state: provide a copy of the annual payroll showing how much city or town employees earned and a copy of the policy governing when police officers can use their weapons.
To make the request mirror one made by an ordinary citizen, the written requests were made in the name of one of the Northeastern University students using a PO Box and a generic email.
State law requires a meaningful response, ranging from a fee estimate to a denial, within 10 days. But most fell far short.
Out of 351 cities and towns, 204, or 58 percent, failed to provide a timely response to one or both requests. Eighty-three communities, or 24 percent, never responded at all to one of the requests during the 40-day test.
“The numbers you told me are really shocking,” Pam Wilmot, executive director of the good government group Common Cause Massachusetts, told 5 Investigates’ Mike Beaudet. “We need to do a lot, lot better than th