City of Somerville
Massachusetts

Agenda Item
196362
Work Completed
Sep 23, 2014 7:00 PM

That the City Solicitor appear before this Board to describe the process for responding to requests for public records, including fees and redactions, and how this comports with the requirements of state law, the Secretary of State's Public Records Division, and the practices of other communities.

Information

Department:Board of AldermenSponsors:Ward Five Alderman Mark Niedergang, Alderman At Large William A. White Jr., Ward Four Alderman Tony Lafuente, Ward Three Alderman Robert J. McWatters, Ward Seven Alderman Katjana Ballantyne, Alderman At Large Mary Jo Rossetti, Alderman At Large Dennis M. Sullivan
Category:OrderPurposes:Order

Official Text

That the City Solicitor appear before this Board to describe the process that the City uses in responding to requests for public records, including the fees charged and the justification for redactions, and how this comports with the requirements of state law, the Public Records Division of the Office of the Secretary of State and the practices of other communities.

 

Meeting History

Mar 13, 2014 7:00 PM Video Board of Aldermen Regular Meeting

Alderman Niedergang questioned the basis of the city's disclosure of public records.

RESULT:APPROVED
Apr 8, 2014 6:30 PM  Legislative Matters Committee Committee of the Whole

The discussions concerned requests for information and redactions that are made to said information. Mr. Wright explained the overall process involved in complying with state laws on the subject. Committee members raised questions about the rationale used in determining what information can and cannot be divulged as well as the methods used to determine time, cost and fee estimates for producing the material requested. Members also questioned how the public’s right for information is balanced against the city’s need to protect itself. Even though the city is allowed, by law, to charge for processing and provide requested information, some committee members felt it is unfair to charge the public for this service.

The City Solicitor was asked to look at how policy relates to legality.

Alderman White’s motion that the City Solicitor provide the Committee on Legislative Matters with an analysis of the Law Department’s support to charge for review and redaction of requested information, was approved.

Alderman White’s motion that the City Solicitor provide the Committee on Legislative Matters with the good faith estimate of number of hours and the hourly rates charged for every information request this year, to date, was approved.

Alderman Gewirtz’s motion that the City Solicitor research and report to the Committee on Legislative Matters on the ability of the Board of Aldermen to create guidelines regarding requests for public information on the local level, was approved.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Apr 29, 2014 6:30 PM  Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
May 13, 2014 6:30 PM  Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Sep 16, 2014 6:00 PM  Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting

Mr. Wright reminded the members that this information was provided to the committee in May of this year. The city charges the amounts allowed by law for processing public information requests. Mr. Wright will provide an opinion on whether the Board of Alderman has the authority to set the processing fees.

RESULT:WORK COMPLETED
Sep 23, 2014 7:00 PM Video Board of Aldermen Regular Meeting
RESULT:WORK COMPLETED