The Massachusetts Public Records Law provides that every person has a right of access to public information. This right of access includes the right to inspect, copy or have copies of records provided, upon the payment of a reasonable fee.
The Massachusetts General Laws broadly define “public records” to include all documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which are made or received by any officer or employee of any Massachusetts governmental entity. As a result, all photographs, papers and electronic storage media including electronic mail of which a governmental employee is the “custodian” constitute “public records.” There are, however, 15 narrowly construed exemptions to this broad definition of “public records.”
Requests may be oral or written, and may be made in person, through the mail, by fax, or through electronic mail. A reasonable description of the document(s) requested should be provided, to assist the custodian in identifying the requested documents. The custodian has up to 10 days to provide a response to the request. The custodian is only required to provide records that are in existence and is not required to create a new record based on material in his/her custody to accommodate a specific request.
The cost for copies of written documents is 20¢ per page for photocopies, and 50¢ per page for computer printouts. Additional fees may be charged for over-sized documents (such as maps and plans, which cannot be copied with a normal photocopier), and for staff time to search for the records, prepare for copying, photocopy and refile. The custodian is required to provide the requester with a good-faith estimate of the cost if is expected to exceed $10.
For further information, or to download a Guide to the Public Records Law, please also visit the State Public Records Division website – www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/preidx.htm.