Public Law

Updates on Public Law in Massachusetts from Anderson & Kreiger LLP

Article

What Municipalities Need to Know About the Draft Public Records Regulations

The Supervisor of Public Records released draft regulations to implement the new Public Records Law on September 13. Government entities should keep in mind the following dates:

  • The Supervisors is holding a public hearing on Thursday, October 6 at 11:00 a.m, at One Ashburton Place.
  • Written comments to the Supervisor are due that same day at 1:00 p.m.
  • The law takes effect January 1, 2017. Carefully reviewing and understanding the draft regulations is an important part of preparing for the new law.

Draft Regulations: Overview

Below are some of the draft regulations’ most notable enhancements.

Municipality or State Agency? Among the new law’s most vexing of issues is distinguishing governmental entities that are neither municipalities nor state agencies. The new law allows municipalities additional time, greater fee reimbursement and other advantages over the compliance required of state agencies.

Within the definition of a municipality, the Supervisor has wisely included entities such as local housing and redevelopment authorities, regional school districts and other regional entities comprised of participating municipalities. But the status of counties is still up in the air. Other entities may also fall between the definitional cracks.

Verbal Requests Allowed. Although the new law states that the public may submit requests by hand, by mail or email, the regulations continue to allow in-person verbal requests, which municipal advocates had hoped that the statutory language would disqualify. But while the regulations treat verbal requests as valid, they do make clear that requestors forfeit a right to appeal the municipalities’ response to a verbal request. As for telephone requests, it is up to records access officers whether or not to accept them.

Broad “Business Day” Definition. The regulations help municipalities by providing a relatively broad definition of “business day.”

The count of “business” days to respond to a request under the regulations excludes not only Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays, but any other day that the municipal office is unexpectedly closed. Beleaguered custodians need not worry about responding from home on a severe snow day when the office is closed.

The regulations also enhance municipalities’ ability to comply with strict timelines by specifying that the calculation of time for compliance starts the day after receipt of a request.

Photo credit: Bill Overthere

About the Author

Kevin D. Batt – Senior Counsel

Kevin represents public clients in general municipal, land use, environmental, energy and construction matters.

Please contact him at (617) 621-6514 or by emailing kbatt@andersonkreiger.com.


Posted In: Public Records

Find an Attorney