Public Records Request

Town of Lynnfield
Public Records Request Policy
Effective January 1, 2017
 
To request a public record - click here to be redirected to our online site.  Please be sure to read the following guidelines.  
 
On June 3, 2016, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act to Improve Public Records,” enhancing public access to information. That law went into effect January 1, 2017.
 
The Massachusetts Public Records Law governs the public's access to government documents and records. The Supervisor of Public Records, an administrative official located within the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office, is broadly responsible for maintaining the Commonwealth's public records and handles administrative appeals in disputes over whether particular records are subject to, or are exempt from, the general disclosure mandate of the Public Records Law.
 
If a custodian of a public record refuses to comply with an administrative directive from the Supervisor of Public Records, the Supervisor may request that the Attorney General "take whatever measures he deems necessary to insure compliance with the provisions" of the Public Records Law, Mass. General Laws Chapter. 66, Section 10. When the Attorney General's Office receives such a request from the Supervisor, the Attorney General makes an independent legal assessment of the public records dispute and acts accordingly.
 
What is a Public Record?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts broadly defines what constitutes a public record. The public records law includes nearly all documentary material or data of any form generated, received, or maintained by the Town, its employees, boards, committees and commissions. In order to protect certain privacy and security interests, there are certain narrowly defined statutory exemptions prohibiting particular public records, or portions thereof, from disclosure.
 
What is a Public Records Request?
 
A public records request is a request to either inspect public records or copy them. There is no requirement that the request be made in person or in writing, or be in any particular form. The person making the request is not required to identify himself/herself, or to provide information about the reason for the request or how the records will be used (with limited exceptions discussed below). The request must be clear enough to enable the Town to conduct a meaningful search. The Town may ask questions about the request in order to respond to the request fully and in a timely manner. The State acknowledges that access to information is a fundamental and necessary right of every citizen.
 
What is a Records Access Officer (“RAO”)?
 
The Town Clerk serves as the “Chief Records Access Officer, with each Department Head / Board Secretary as the Departmental Records Access Officer (RAO) for his/her respective department or board.
 
Contact information for each RAO is posted below and will be posted on the bulletin board outside the Town Clerk’s office.
 
The Chief RAO will assist public records requesters, and assist records custodians in maintaining records.
 
The Chief RAO will be responsible for following up with each Departmental RAO to be sure they are meeting the requirements needed to fulfill the pubic records request. The Departmental RAO will be responsible for working with the Chief RAO to ensure a timely response. The Departmental RAO will be responsible for providing the Chief RAO a written notification the request was responded to.  
 
How and When to Respond to Requests?
 
The time to provide an initial response is 10 business days. Business days does not include Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays or other weekdays when a custodian’s office is closed unexpectedly.
 
Within 10 business days, a response from the RAO to the requester is required, at the very least to provide an estimate of the fee that will be due. Within 25 business days, the Departmental RAO will provide a full response including the copies, if requested.
 
It is the Town’s policy to fulfill requests as quickly as possible and to respect the State’s preference for the waiver of fees. Thus, if a member of the public appeared at the Assessors’ office to request a copy of one of the current Assessors’ maps, the employee on duty should give him a copy over the counter and would be encouraged not to charge a copying fee. If, on the other hand, a large complicated request were received, such as one to the Building Department for paper copies of all building permits granted from 1990 to 2015 for single family homes, the departmental RAO would probably have to do a computer research and decide on the likely volume and cost of the production. In such a case, it would be appropriate to contact the Chief RAO right away.
 
Each department, board and committee will be responsible for researching and copying the public records requested of it.
 
RAO’s must provide public records to a requester in an electronic format unless the record is not available in an electronic format or the requester does not have the ability to receive or access the records in a useable electronic format.
 
Fees
 
Absent a specifically identified statute or regulation, an RAO may charge no more than $0.05 per page for single and double-sided black and white paper copies or computer printouts. There is no longer a separate charge for police or fire reports, or for computer printouts.
 
The Public Records Law and its Regulations apply to all Massachusetts government records, regardless of form, and regardless of the location of the records. Provision of public records in electronic form is preferred where available. An RAO is not permitted to assess a copying fee for electronic records. The $0.05 fee applies only to paper copies of records.
 
The Public Records Regulations require that an RAO provide a detailed, written, good faith estimate for the cost of complying with a public record request. The fee estimate must contain a statement advising the requester that the actual cost of producing the record might vary once the municipality begins preparing the record. A municipality is permitted to require payment of the estimated fee before commencing work. All municipalities are strongly urged to waive the fees associated with access to public records, but are not required to do so under the law. Public records that are of great interest to a large number of people must be readily available within the office of the RAO and should be provided at a minimum cost, if any.
 
Examples include minutes of board meetings, town meeting documents, warrants, street lists and municipal financial documents. Many of these records are required to be placed on the RAO’s website.
 
An RAO may charge and recover a fee for the time spent searching, redacting (if legally required), photocopying and refiling a record.  Municipalities such as Lynnfield with a population of 20,000 and under are permitted to charge for the first two hours of time spent searching for, compiling, segregating, redacting and reproducing a requested record. The hourly rate may not be greater than the prorated hourly wage of the lowest paid employee who is capable of performing the task. Generally, an RAO is not permitted to charge an hourly rate in excess of $25.00 per hour to search for records. Municipal RAOs may petition the Supervisor for permission to charge a fee in excess of $25.00.
 
The fee estimate must provide the hourly rate and the number of hours required for each portion of the task. An RAO may not recover fees associated with record organization. If a requester wishes to review records in the records custodian’s office but does not require copies, a records custodian may charge and recover a fee for his or her time spent searching for and redacting the records. Access to records viewed in this manner cannot be denied and only minor fees associated with securing the record should be charged.
 
If there is a request to waive the fees, the Town has a right to ask for the purpose of the public records request. That is because the Public Records Law urges municipalities to take into account whether the request is in the public interest in determining whether to grant a waiver. If it turns out that the request serves a commercial purpose, it is the Town’s policy not to waive fees.  The only other reason Town personnel may ask the purpose of the request is if the requested information may be subject to “Exemption (n)” to the definition of “public records.” That is the part of the law allowing the withholding of information about infrastructure and security measure which the records custodian deems “likely to jeopardize public safety or cyber security”.
 
Administrative Appeals
If a municipality fails to comply with a requirement of the Public Records Law, the requester may file an appeal with the Supervisor of Public Records who will then issue a determination on the public status of the records within 10 business days of receipt of the appeal.
 
Attorney’s Fees
Under the Public Records Law, if a requester prevails in a court action against a municipal RAO, the court may award the requester attorney’s fees and costs.
 
For more information on the Attorney General's responsibilities under the Public Records Law, please call or write the General Counsel's Office, Office of the Attorney General, One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, (617) 727-2200. The Public Records Guide can be viewed at www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/guide.pdf
 
Public Records Request
 
Where can I request a Public Record?
 
To obtain a copy and / or inspect public records maintained by the Town, you may submit your request in anyone of the following ways:
 
1.      Town of Lynnfield website by completing an online request form - click here to be redirected to our online site;
 
2.      Electronic mail by submitting an email request (see below for Departments and appropriate contacts);
 
3.      Typed or handwritten request by mail to the appropriate department;
 
4.      Facsimile by submitting the request to the appropriate department (see below for fax numbers);
 
5.      In person by submitting a written or oral request to the appropriate department.
 
NOTE: If department is not known, you can submit your request to the Town Clerk, who will forward the request to the appropriate department.
 
Public record requests shall include a reasonable description of the requested record to the records access officer (RAO) so that he / she can identify and locate it promptly. Under the law and to the extent feasible, the RAO shall provide public records to a requester in an electronic format unless the record is not available in an electronic format or the requester does not have the ability to receive or access the records electronically.
 
You are asked (but not required) to provide the following information to ensure that we process your request as efficiently as possible:
 
  • Your name, address, email address and telephone number;
  • A reasonable description of the record(s) sought, containing specific dates and supporting information which will allow the Town to identify and locate the record(s);
  • Your preference to inspect/review record(s) or to copy the record(s); and
  • If you do not want your records electronically transmitted to you, the method you would like the records delivered.
What happens to my request?
 
The Records Access Officer must furnish a copy or permit inspection of public records within ten business days as long as:
 
  • The request reasonably describes the public record sought;
  • The public record is within the possession, custody or control of the municipality that the records access officer serves;
  • The public record is not exempted by statue; and
  • If applicable, the records access officer receives payment of a reasonable fee.
If the Records Access Officer is unable to provide a full response to your request within the ten business days he or she must respond to your request and include the following information:
 
  • Confirmation of your request;
  • Identify the correct RAO if the request was submitted to the wrong RAO;
  • Outline what will be withheld, if known;
  • Provide an explanation for the inability to provide the records within the timeframe;
  • When a response is expected.
*Responses will be delivered by email if an email has been provided otherwise; the response will be delivered by first-class mail.
 
Record Access Officers
 
Mailing Address:
 
Town of Lynnfield
[INSERT APPROPRIATE DEPARTMENT NAME]
55 Summer Street
Lynnfield, MA  01940
 
Town of Lynnfield Chief Records Access Officer:
        Trudy Reid - Town Clerk
        781-334-9401
        Fax # - 781-334-9469
 
Departmental Records Access Officers:
        Accounting - Julie McCarthy
        781-334-9420
        Fax # - 781-334-9429
 
        Assessors - Raymond Boly
        781-334-9450
        Fax # - 781-334-9419
 
        Building Inspectors - Winnie Barrasso
        781-334-9470
        Fax # - 781-334-9489
 
        Conservation - Betty Adelson
        781-334-9495
        Fax # - 781-334-9509
 
        Fire - Chief Mark Tetreault
        781-334-5152
        Fax # - 781-334-2592
 
        Police - Capt. Karl Johnson
        781-334-6506
        Fax # - 781-334-6334
 
        Planning - Kathy Randele
        781-334-9490
        Fax # - 781-334-9509
 
        Public Works - Michelle Sweeney
        781-334-9500
        Fax # - 781-334-9509
 
        School - Thomas Geary
        781-334-9200
        Fax # - 781-581-5231
        
        Town Admin / Selectmen - Bob Curtin
        781-334-9410
        Fax # - 781-3349419
 
        Treasurer / Collector - Christine O'Sullivan
        781-334-9430
        Fax # - 781-334-9439
 
Helpful Links:
 
  • Updated Public Records Law: Click Here
  • A Guide to Massachusetts Public Records Law: Click Here
  • Making a Request for Public Records: Click Here
  • Appeal a Denial of Access to Public Records: Click Here
  • Electronic Records management Guidelines: Click Here
  • Public Record Appeal Status: Click Here
  • Public Records Access, 950 CMR 32: Click Here
  • Access to Public Records maintained by the Secretary of the Commonwealth: Click Here