Executive Session Minutes (Middlesex County) (Ashby Town Clerk (MA))

Caitlin Russell filed this request with the Ashby Town Clerk (MA) of Ashby, MA .
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From: Caitlin Russell

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Public Records Law, M.G.L. c.66, §10, I hereby request the following records:

Pursuant to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 66, Section 10, I'm requesting all executive session minutes generated, by the Board of Selectmen for the years 2010 through the of end 2015.
Massachusetts law requires that executive session minutes be reviewed and released regularly, and that once the stated purpose for a particular executive session has ended, the minutes of the executive sessions are to be made public.
Please be advised that denial of this request, or redactions made to released materials must be accompanied by citations of the exemptions you believe allow you to withhold the information requested.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as we believe this request is in the public interest, as suggested but not stipulated by the recommendations of the Massachusetts Supervisor of Public Records. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

I expect the request to be filled in an accessible format, including for screen readers, which provide text-to-speech for persons unable to read print. Files that are not accessible to screen readers include, for example, .pdf image files as well as physical documents.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 calendar days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Caitlin Russell

From: Town Administrator

To: Caitlin Russell, or whom it may concern

Please be advised that the executive session minutes you have requested exist only in handwritten form (and sometimes in execrable handwriting).

The Town has no capacity to send you those documents suitable for release, other than in a PDF format, or in hard copy.

Please inform us of your preferred format.

Robert B. Hanson
Town Administrator
Ashby, MA

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello,
PDF works for me. Thank you!
Caitlin

From: Town Administrator

To: Caitlin Russell, Muckrock.com
Attached, please find seventeen (17) sets of Selectmen's executive session minutes dating from 1/20/2010 to 4/16/2015, as specified in your public document request of 10/25/2016.
Not included in this compilation are:

* Minutes of executive sessions on 3/2/2015, 10/7/2015, 12/8/2015, and 12/16/2015. These items relate to discussions and actions regarding the medical condition of an individual, and are exempted under MGL ch. 4, s. 7(26)(c), as well as HIPPA constraints.

* Minutes of an executive session on 5/2/2014. This item relates to disciplinary proceedings involving Town employee(s), and resultant actions; it is also exempt under MGL ch. 4, s. 7(26)(c).
Please advise of any questions.
Yours truly,
Robert B. Hanson, Town administrator
Ashby, MA 01431

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello,
I was wondering if the town would be willing to release the minutes of 3/2/2015, 10/7/2015, 12/8/2015, and 12/16/2015 in redacted form, so as to protect the privacy of the individual, while still being as transparent as possible. I'd also like to request that you release the minutes of 5/2/2014, as disciplinary proceedings are not explicitly exempt under MGL ch. 4, s. 7(26)(c), and the "data relating to a specifically named individual," can be redacted. Thank you.
Best,
Caitlin

From: Town Administrator

Dear Caitlin:
In response to your request for reconsideration of exemptions claimed for several executive sessions, please note:

· The minutes of 5/21/14… while you are correct that the statute does not specifically exempt disciplinary hearings from disclosure, I would draw your attention to the Attorney General’s “Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law” (p. 12), which notes: “Generally, personnel information that is useful in making employment decisions regarding an employee is sufficiently personal to be exempt…Such information may include employment applications, employee work evaluations, disciplinary documentation, and promotion, demotion, or termination information.”

· The minutes of 10/7/15, 12/8/15, 12/16/15, 3/2/16… all of these minutes relate to the health and/or personal circumstances of an individual. It is all well and good to assume that redacting the name of the individual would cure any privacy concerns, but the truth is that Ashby is a very small town, and it might take two minutes for everyone in Town to know who the individual in question is. Given the content of the minutes, it would be impossible to redact enough information to effectively screen the identity of the subject.

I regret that I cannot see grounds to amend my prior determinations.

Yours truly,

Robert B. Hanson
Town Administrator

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello,
Regarding the minutes of May 21, 2014, in order to withhold these minutes under the personnel exemption you must demonstrate that releasing them would impede the "proper performance of necessary government functions," and that the records relate only to internal matters that the public cannot reasonably be expected to have an interest in. As far as the rest of the minutes you cited, I don't believe the size of the town has any bearing on whether or not the information may legally be withheld. Please let me know if you're willing to reconsider releasing these minutes. Thanks.
Caitlin

From: Town Administrator

Caitlin:

Attached, please find redacted copies of the “health of an individual” minutes previously discussed.

With regard to the 5/2/14 records, I believe you are mistaken in your statement of the Town’s obligation to show cause for an exemption… what you have referenced are the requirements of s. 7(b) (“personnel exemption”), when our stated cause for exemption is the first clause of s. 7(c) (“personnel records”). Our position stands.

Yours truly,

Robert B. Hanson
Town Administrator

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