massachusetts public records law exemptions

Relevant degrees and certifications may be subject to disclosure upon request. For example: Are settlement agreements exempt under the Public Records Law? Some public records are exempt from disclosure (either in whole or in part) under the Public Records Actor other statutes; if a record is exempt from disclosure, the agency has the option to disclose the record but is not required to. App. The exemption ensures that the government will not be at a bargaining disadvantage by allowing the other party to use the Public Records Law to gain access to an appraisal prior to completion of negotiations or litigation. State agencies as well as cities and towns are required to turn over all manner of documents when members of the press and the public ask them to do so. For example: Are all Department of Correction (DOC) security policies and procedures public? Exemptions. 281, 289-90 (1979) (the statutory exemptions are not blanket in nature).4 G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(a).5 Attorney General v. Collector of Lynn, 377 Mass. A records custodian should review a request for such records promptly and completely to gather all facts surrounding the request. statute.9 The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, conferred with the authority to promulgate and interpret statutes and regulations regarding C.O.R.I., interprets the “initiation of criminal proceedings” to be “the point when a criminal investigation is sufficiently complete that the investigating officers take actions toward bringing a specific suspect to court.”10. The language of the exemption limits its application to: personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy14, The privacy exemption is made up of two separate clauses, the first of which exempts personnel and medical files. Such a report may contain recommendations to the town. Top-requested sites to log in to services provided by the state. Under the first clause of Exemption (c), certain personnel records may be withheld, therefore, the records custodian may properly withhold certain employment applications and work evaluations under Exemption (c).Candidates for state employment must provide prospective employers with written disclosure of any relative who is also a state employee. Exemption (l) provides a basis for withholding from disclosure: questions and answers, scoring keys and sheets and other materials used to develop, administer or score a test, examination or assessment instrument; provided, however, that such materials are intended to be used for another test, examination or assessment instrument61. Corporation of Baltimore, 508 F.2d 945, 948 (1974) (construing cognate federal provision).38 G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(e).39 G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(e).40 G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(f).41 District Attorney for the Norfolk District v. Flatley, 419 Mass. Making such a value judgment is specifically antithetic to the previously expounded presumptions that all records are public records and all requesters shall be treated uniformly. Exemption (f), the investigatory exemption, provides custodians a basis for withholding: investigatory materials necessarily compiled out of the public view by law enforcement or other investigatory officials the disclosure of which materials would probably so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest40. Exemptions to Public Records Law Below is the list of records that exempt from the PUblic Records Law. c. 4, § 7(26)(a) & (f); Mass. 132 (1989) (autopsy reports constitute exempt medical information).16 Wakefield Teacher’s Association v. School Committee of Wakefield, 431 Mass. The limitation on the duration of the exemption provides the public with an opportunity to review the rejected proposals to ensure that taxpayer dollars are wisely spent. c. 66, § 10(d), you may be assessed a fee for the costs associated with the production of public records. The Public Records Law requires a case-by-case analysis of the applicability of its exemptions. Exemption 7 – Protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected: 7(A) – to interfere with enforcement proceedings. 36G.L. c.4, §7(26), the attorney-client privilege, or other applicable exemptions or common law … 151, 154 (1979); Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. v. Appeals Court, 372 Mass. Given that payroll records identify an individual as being a government employee while providing the employee’s home address, and possibly telephone number in the same record, the home address and telephone number would be subject to redaction under this exemption. The public interest in the financial information of a public employee outweighs the privacy interest where the financial compensation in question is drawn on an account held by a government entity and comprised of taxpayer funds. This exemption is intended to secure the safety of persons and public places by restricting access to records that may have been previously open to public inspection. Public Records What is a public record? See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. For example: Are the names and addresses of customers of a municipally owned utility public? The legislature defined “appraisal” as any written analysis, opinion, or conclusion prepared by a real estate appraiser relating to the nature, quality, value or utility of specified interests in, or aspects of, identified real estate.53. c. 4, § 7 (26) (a) & (f); Mass. App. All of the remaining criteria, however, were not met because the Memorandum was not voluntarily submitted, was not provided for use in developing government policy, and was not submitted upon a promise of confidentiality. at 156.33 Id.34 See G. L. c. 268A, § 6B.35 G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(d).36 Babets v. Sec’y of the Exec. The estimate should contain a statement advising the requester that the actual cost of producing the record might vary once the … Its application is limited to “intimate details of a highly personal nature.”30 Examples of “intimate details of a highly personal nature” include marital status, paternity, substance abuse, government assistance, family disputes and reputation.31 Portions of records containing such information are exempt unless there is a paramount public interest in disclosure.32. Exemption (h) serves to protect the integrity of the bidding processes used by the government to procure goods and services by allowing a records custodian to withhold the proposals of early bidders from other interested parties.47 The exemption allows government officials to review bids and proposals in an insulated environment, but also provides for public review of all evaluative materials once a decision is reached. You may be able to obtain such records from the clerk’s office in the applicable district court or the superior court in your county. Exemption (b) applies to records that are: related solely to internal personnel rules and practices of the government unit, provided however, that such records shall be withheld only to the extent that proper performance of necessary governmental functions requires such withholding11, There are no authoritative Massachusetts decisions interpreting Exemption (b). The exemption pertains to contracts for hospital or healthcare services between a government-operated healthcare facility and a health maintenance organization or health insurance corporation. There are 19 pages of exemptions alone in the 60-page guide to Massachusetts public records. Examples of exempt records include: For a complete listing of the exemptions to the Public Records Law, please see “A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law,” available at: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/guide.pdf . 427, 442 (1983); see also Globe Newspaper Company v. Chief Medical Examiner, 404 Mass. The second clause of Exemption (h) allows the records custodian to withhold any inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are made in the process of reviewing the bids and proposals, prior to entering into negotiations with or to award the contract to a particular person. personnel files (G.L. As long as the same materials are used to administer subsequent examinations, the custodian of records may continue to withhold the materials pursuant to Exemption (l). The notes cannot be considered merely a reference to assist the secretary in fulfilling duties, but rather the notes comprise a government file itself. For a listing of judicial records that may be available from the appropriate clerk’s office, please see the “Guidelines on the Public’s Right of Access to Judicial Proceedings and Records,” available at:  http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/sjc/docs/pubaccess.pdf . Under the public records law, a person making a public records request cannot be asked the reason for the request, nor can the Commonwealth control how that individual uses or publishes this information. c. 38, § 2); attorney work product and materials protected by the attorney client privilege (G.L. Exemption (s) relates to certain records of public utility providers. The analysis is subjective in nature and requires a balancing of the public’s right to know against the relevant privacy interests at stake. The Massachusetts Public Records Law was created in the spirit of the 1966 federal Freedom of Information Act in an effort to make government more accountable — … Other exemptions and … 274, 278 (1985).25 Wakefield Teachers Association v. School Committee of Wakefield, 431 Mass. However, the public records law also provides certain exemptions. Please reference the Appendix of this Guide for other examples of statutes that specifically exempt records from disclosure. Open Records Law G. L. c. 4, § 7(26) Exempt: Information that would invade individual privacy; trade secrets; public … (a) Burden of proof. The scope of the exemption is limited to restricting the public disclosure of the name and address of the individual.56. All records including photographs, memos, books, papers, maps, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data are considered public information in Massachusetts, unless they are withheld from … R. Crim. App. Massachusetts’ law allows 10 days for record responses. For example: Does Exemption (c) permit resumes of public officials to be withheld from disclosure? Office of Human Servs., 403 Mass. For example: Is a town’s appraisal report, prepared for the purpose of litigation before the Appellate Tax Board, a public record? Bids may be withheld until such time as the bids are publicly opened and read by the awarding authority. A records … The registry of vital records and statistics maintains a voluntary adoption contact information registry for the purpose of connecting parents listed on the initial birth certificate to any of their children who were adopted by others.67 The adoption contact registry contains the addresses and other information supplied by parents and adoptees necessary for one to contact the other. The second clause of Exemption (c) applies to “intimate details of a highly personal nature.” Names and addresses of residents of Massachusetts over seventeen years of age are not intimate details of a highly personal nature, because they are available in other venues, such as street lists. As a general rule, medical information will always be of a sufficiently personal nature to warrant exemption.15, The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court determined that exempting personnel information from disclosure serves to protect the government’s ability to function effectively as an employer.16 The release of certain personnel information could disrupt the government’s capability to conduct sensitive and careful investigations regarding employees.17, While statutorily exempting personnel information from the expansive definition of public records, the legislature did not explicitly define personnel information.18 However, judicial decisions acknowledge that the term is neither rigid, nor exact, and that the determination is case-specific.19 The custodian’s classification of materials as “personnel information” is not conclusive.20 Instead, the nature or character of the documents, as opposed to the documents’ label, is crucial to the analysis.21, The nature of some materials and the context in which they arise take them beyond what the legislature contemplated when exempting personnel information.22, Generally, personnel information that is useful in making employment decisions regarding an employee is sufficiently personal to be exempt pursuant to the first clause.23 Such information may include employment applications, employee work evaluations, disciplinary documentation, and promotion, demotion, or termination information.24, The Appeals Court of Massachusetts distinguished “personnel records” from “internal affairs” records. The second clause of the exemption is similar to Exemption (d) in its application.51 It allows government officials to withhold any inter-agency or intra-agency communications regarding the evaluations of the bids or proposals until the records custodian renders a decision to enter into negotiations with the successful bidder or awards the contract. PRA exemptions are set forth in RCW 42.56.230-.470. The general purpose of the cognate federal exemption, however, is to relieve agencies of the burden of assembling and maintaining for public inspection matters in which the public cannot reasonably be expected to have a legitimate interest.12, The language of the federal provision is duplicated in the first clause of Exemption (b). Section 708. Other exemptions … Records custodians may withhold confidential investigative techniques indefinitely since their disclosure would prejudice future law enforcement efforts.42, The legislature also designed the exemption to allow investigative officials to provide an assurance of confidentiality to private citizens so that they will speak openly about matters under investigation.43 Any details in witness statements, which if released create a grave risk of directly or indirectly identifying a private citizen who volunteers as a witness are indefinitely exempt.44. 427, 432-33 (1983) (where the language of a parallel state statute differs in material respects from a previously enacted federal statute, a rejection or expansion of the legal principles embodied in the federal statute may be inferred).14 G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(c).15 Globe Newspaper Company v. Boston Retirement Board, 388 Mass. Accordingly, Exemption (b) will allow the DOC to withhold portions of the requested policies. For example: Where a requester seeks appraisal documents on a parcel for which a negotiated final settlement has been reached, may the records custodian withhold the appraisals on all the parcels of land being acquired for the project until it reaches final agreement on all the parcels and the litigation on the parcels is finalized? The Massachusetts Statewide Records Retention Schedule is available at: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/arcpdf/0211.pdf. The first category includes records that are specifically exempt from disclosure by statute. P. 5 (d)); Sadly, the exemption Amore was complaining about is hardly a shocker given the sorry state of open government in Massachusetts. The following public records are exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.311 (Definitions for ORS 192.311 to 192.478) to 192.478 (Exemption for Judicial Department) unless the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance: (1) Records of a public body pertaining to litigation to which the public … It is impossible for the records custodian to protect Mr. Smith’s identity. ).43 Bougas, 371 Mass at 62.44 Globe Newspaper Co. v. Boston Retirement Bd., 388 Mass. The record must contain an individual’s home address, personal email address or telephone number and identify the individual as being the family member of a Commonwealth employee to be subject to redaction. Under current state law, the governor's office, the Legislature and the judiciary are all exempt from the state's public records law. In this situation, the appraisal sought by the requester pertained to a parcel that had already been acquired, and the records custodian was ordered to produce the appraisal documents for that specific parcel.54. The term "public records" is broadly defined to include all documents, including those in electronic form, generated or received by any government body. Examples of exempt records include: grand jury minutes and related materials (G.L. As long as the town is still negotiating a settlement, the deliberative process has not been concluded and the report may be withheld under Exemption (d). It reached essentially its modern form in the mid-1970’s, although the state legislature has subsequently amended the law. Such notes are not personal in nature simply because they contain the secretary’s subjective impressions of a board meeting. The exemptions to the Public Records Law are described in this guide. 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