Secretary of the Commonwealth Updates the Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law
In December, the Secretary of the Commonwealth updated the Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law, tightening the requirements for municipalities seeking collection of fees or extensions of time to respond to public records requests.
While it has always been a best practice to explain the why in a fee petition or a petition for an extension of time to respond, failure to include certain details is now more likely to result in a speedy denial. For either type of petition, a Records Access Officer should address each of the factors in M.G.L. c. 66, § 10(d)(iv) or § 10(c)(i)-(iv), respectively, and connect each factor to the request at issue. Failure to address all factors may result in a denial of the RAO’s request.
The updated Guide also specifies that an RAO may petition for an extension of time only because of the “magnitude or difficulty of [the] request or the receipt of multiple requests from the same requestor.” The petition must explain how the magnitude or difficulty of the request or receipt of multiple requests creates an “undue burden” on the respondent. A request for extension of time must be submitted within 20 business days of receipt of the request or 10 business days after receipt of determination by Supervisor that record is a public record. In another change to the Guide, only one extension of up to 30 business days may be granted to a municipality.
Finally, whether petitioning for fees or an extension of time, an RAO should always provide an initial response to the requestor within 10 business days, without which a petition to the Supervisor may be denied.