Charging Fees for Discretionary Segregation and Redaction of Documents
The Public Records Law permits a Record Access Officer to assess reasonable fees for the production of a record. However, the requestor may “not be assessed for time spent segregating or redacting records unless such segregation or redaction is required by law or approved by the supervisor of records….” M.G.L. c.66, §10(d)(ii).
The Supervisor of Records in the Secretary of State’s Office is interpreting the phrase “required by law” to mean that the right to assess fees applies only to a non-discretionary segregation or redaction. Thus, unless the request implicates Exemption (a) of the Public Records Law, which permits the withholding of records specifically or by necessary implication exempted from disclosure by statute, her approval is required to assess fees. In her interpretation, Exemption (a) is the only one that is not discretionary.
Practically speaking, this means that, if a School Department wants to charge to redact information protected under the Federal Education Records Protection Act (FERPA), it may do so. But, if a DPW wants to charge to redact records under the privacy exemption, it would need the Supervisor’s blessing.