Thursday, September 29, 2016

Public records law update (at MASBO) H4333

Rosann DePietro: Now four statutes instead of one
"probably coming your way, because what else do you have to do all day?"
the law takes effect for the most part this January(2017)
put templates in place before it takes impact
law didn't change the definition of a public record
"everything you have as an organization is a public record unless it isn't"
but now if you get it wrong and a requestor sues you, you not only have to proceed the record, you pay their attorneys' fees
part of updating the website goes into effect in July
most changes benefit the person making the request, not the person receiving the request
more timely access, at a reduced cost, with greater electronic access

MGL Ch.4 sec. 7 (26) is where the definition is
exemption C: personnel or medical files, or "unwarranted invasion of privacy"

School district must appoint and publicly identify a "Record Access Officer"
who that is must be "posted conspiciously" on district website and in administration offices
modifications to response timeframes
long all requests, how handled, fees
if producing records is unduly burdensome, must send written response in 10 days with explanation
25 days: need to offer modification to make request not unduly burdensome
provide project charge before moving on
Supervisor of Public Records may grant an extension, not beyond 30 days upon showing good cause
5 cents a page maximum
no fee if no response in 10 business days
population of more than 20,000, cannot charge first two hours
otherwise, can charge up to $25 an hour
municipality may petition state supervisor for exception
must respond electronically, unless records are not electronically or respondant doesn't want them electronically
common records should be posted online; response may not be a direction to the website
all records must be maintained in the custody of a Custodian of Records
requester may petition Supervisor of Public Records for a compliance determination if district has not complied
may compel you to comply, or get AG involved who can take you to court
if court disagrees with supervisor's ruling in your favor, you may not be assessed attorney's fees, BUT requester can bypass appeal to supervisor and go straight to court (so what then?)
recommend setting up a template to track requests
Read the law (it's chapter 121 2016 acts)
consider initial round doing for free to see how long it will take as a test
General response from group is that fees go to general fund and thus don't go to district at all
Maybe a revolving account is needed in future amendments?

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