Executive Session Minutes (Plymouth County) (Norwell Town Clerk)

Caitlin Russell filed this request with the Norwell Town Clerk of Norwell, MA .
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Communications

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:

All executive session minutes generated, by the Norwell 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. Once released, I plan to make the information available to the public online, free of charge.

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: Peter Morin

Good Morning:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your public records request. My office has identified the requested records. The retrieval, review, redaction and photocopying should take five to ten hours of time that will be charged at a rate of approximately $20 an hour. The costs incurred related to your request are significant because the subject matter discussed in executive sessions are by definition sensitive and the case law identifying what is a public record and what constitutes a subject protected from public inspection is not well settled, even when a matter is resolved. In order to ensure the Town's response to your request does not violate privacy rights of employees, it is likely that I will consult with the Town Counsel. You will not be charged for this consultation. Moreover, this office consists of myself and one and a half support staff. The request for records from several years of meetings is a substantial one that will delay normal routine administrative functions . The law allows the Town to seek compensation for at least a portion of the costs related to your request.

If you agree to incur the expenses related to the retrieval of these records, please inform me at your earliest convenience.

Respectfully,

Peter J. Morin
Town Administrator

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello Mr. Morin,
I appreciate your willingness to waive the cost of your consultations with Town Counsel, however I'd like to appeal your decision not to waive the remainder of the fees.
A number of towns have been able to provide me with five years worth of executive session minutes at no charge, presumably because they've been reviewing and releasing the minutes at "reasonable intervals", as required under Massachusetts law. For example, the Town of Concord was able to provide files from 2010-2015 one week after my initial request, free of charge: https://www.muckrock.com/foi/concord-259/executive-session-minutes-middlesex-county-concord-town-clerk-29106/

For further reference, here is a link to the website of the Town of Halifax, which posts executive session minutes from as recently as 2015 alongside regular session minutes: http://www.town.halifax.ma.us/Pages/HalifaxMA_SelectmenMin/T-2015Min/

While the term "reasonable interval" is open to interpretation, I respectfully suggest that five years is not a reasonable amount of time to allow the review of executive session minutes to fall by the wayside. As it is the Board's duty to regularly review and release executive session minutes, I'm appealing your denial of my request to waive fees on the grounds that "retrieval, review, and redaction," of these materials ought to have been done in the course of "normal routine administrative functions," over the years.
Best,
Caitlin Russell

From: Peter Morin

Ms. Russell:
These records presently exist in paper form. You have requested that they be provided electronically. There is an administrative cost related to their retrieval whether they are photocopied or scanned. I cannot speak to the exercise of discretion of other communities regarding the recovery of fees for the work involved in responding to your request. I am aware that pursuant to statute, the Town is entitled to be reimbursed for the time and effort required to respond to your request. I am simply requesting that a portion of the Town’s costs be covered. I will make every effort to contain the cost.
Please let me know whether you wish to go forward with your request.
Respectfully
Peter Morin

From: Caitlin Russell

I do want to go forward with the request. Thank you!

From: Peter Morin

We are working on the response to your request. It should be complete within a week. The anticipated cost is $160. This does not include the cost of having counsel review sections to determine what is public and what is protected by statute. Do you intend to reimburse the Town for its costs?
Respectfully,

Peter Morin
Town Administrator

From: Caitlin Russell

I need to know what the full cost will be, including the cost of town counsel reviewing the material. Depending on the total cost, I'll either pay the fee, or appeal it.

From: Peter Morin

My best projection is that it will cost between $50 and $75 to review and redact the records. I’m waiving the cost of review by Town Counsel.
Respectfully,
Peter Morin

Files

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