Making a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law
The Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10) is very similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act. It applies only to state agencies, municipalities, and legal subdivisions of the Commonwealth, such as the Cape Cod Commission, regional planning agencies, like SRPEDD, and state authorities. Details of the law are provided in the last section of this page. Like the FOIA, you can ask for copies of any documents considered public that are held by municipalities, county government, or state government.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth notes that a public records request can be made verbally in person, but it is best to put the request in writing, so there is no confusion about what information you seek, and to create a record if you seek to appeal an inadequate response. There is no specific format required under the Public Records Law, but the format below will effectively communicate your request and help ensure a timely response.
Agency Head or records holder
Re: Massachusetts Public Records Request
This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10).
I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following documents:
[detailed description of reports, data files, or information you seek.]
(Note: To reduce copying charges for large volumes of material, you can request the documents on a computer CD if they exist as computer data files).
[Optional: I recognize that you may charge reasonable costs for photocopies, computer disks, or personnel time to comply with this request. If you expect charges exceed $XX, please contact me regarding this request. Do this if you have a broad request and you want to limit costs and reduce the scope of your request. Generally you will be notified if your request will exceed $10.]
As you are aware, I must be provided with this information within 10 days. If you cannot comply with my request, please provide an explanation in writing.
Mark your envelope: "Attention: Massachusetts Public Records Request." You could also send the letter with a postal service return receipt.
If you do not receive the information in a timely manner, or the official refuses to provide the information, the Secretary of the Commonwealth notes: "A failure to respond within the allotted time period, or a denial in writing from the custodian, allows a requester to appeal to the Supervisor of Public Records. In order to appeal to the Supervisor, you must send a copy of your request letter, with copies of any correspondence provided by the custodian within ninety (90) days. An administrative appeal will then be opened. If the Supervisor determines that the records are public, he or she may order the custodian to provide the records, if necessary. " The address of the Supervisor of Public Records is
Supervisor of Public Records
Exemption (c), the privacy exemption, is the most frequently invoked exemption. 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 privacy
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 interest.
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