Public Records Request

What is a Public Record?       
                    
Every record that is made or received by a government entity or employee is presumed to be a public record unless a specific statutory exemption permits or requires it to be withheld in whole or in part. Exemptions may be found at Chapter 4, Section 7(26) of the Massachusetts General Laws. For more information, follow this link: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/preinformation.htm

What is a Public Records Request?
A public records request is a request to either inspect, and/or copy, public records. There is no requirement that the request be made in person or in writing, or be in any particular form. The person making the request is not required to identify himself/herself, or to provide information about the reason for the request or how the records will be used. The request must be clear enough to enable the Town to conduct a meaningful search. The Town may ask questions about the request in order to respond to the request fully and in a timely manner. The State acknowledges that access to information is a fundamental and necessary right of every citizen.

GUIDELINES FOR PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS

The Town of Norton has developed these guidelines to help members of the public who are seeking access to public records in the custody of the Town of Norton to make informed requests for public records as well as to assist the Records Access Officers (RAOs) in fulfilling those requests.

Requests for public records may be made orally or in writing. Written requests can be made by hand, mail, email or fax.  Telephone requests may be accepted at the discretion of the Records Access Officer.

Requests for records should be directed to the appropriate Records Access Officer who serves as the custodian of the requested records. The Town of Norton has designated Records Access Officers in each city department (listed below) who are responsible for coordinating their departments’ responses to public records requests. If you would like to make a public records request, please contact the Records Access Officer in the city department from which you would like to request public records. If you are not sure which department has the public records you are seeking, please contact:

Lucia Longhurst, Town Clerk
Town of Norton
70 East Main Street
Norton, MA  02766
508-285-0230
llonghurst@nortonmaus.com

Once your request has been received by the RAO, he or she must provide a response to your request within 10 business days. (business days are Monday through Friday and do not include Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays)

A RAO’s response may include:
• Producing the requested record(s);

• Outlining what will be withheld or redacted because a specific statutory exemption may apply to the requested records permitting or requiring the records to be withheld in whole or in part;

• Identifying records being produced or intended to be produced and (if applicable) a detailed explanation of the reason(s) for the inability to provide the information within the allotted timeframe. The RAO has a total of 25 Business Days to provide a full response to your request unless: The RAO appeals to the Supervisor of Records (Secretary of State) for good cause, or you the requestor, grant additional time to comply in writing.

• Asking for further clarification or suggesting a modification to your request if it can reduce time and cost;

• If fees are going to be charged, providing an itemized good-faith estimate.

Consider how you may narrow the scope of your request to expedite the production process. The first two hours of work performed to respond to a public records request will be performed at no cost. After that, the city may charge up to $25.00 per hour. The city may charge up to $0.05 for black and white paper copies and may charge the actual cost of electronic storage devices (i.e. dvds or memory sticks).

For additional information about making a request or filing an appeal, see Chapter 66 of Massachusetts General Laws and 950 CMR 32 and MA Public Records Law Guidelines.

Below is a list of categories of public records maintained by the city of New Bedford. Please note this list is not exhaustive. These records may be subject to redaction if they contain information that may not be disclosed by law, is exempt under the public records law or is subject to other legally applicable privileges. Where certain categories of records are maintained by a particular department, the appropriate department is indicated below in parenthesis.

Categories of public records generally maintained by the town:

Annual Budgets 
Audio/Video Recordings
Bid documents and procurement contracts 
Collective bargaining agreements 
Documents or correspondence obtained by or generated by a public body or public employee
E-mails
Employee information (name, title, salary) (Contact: Personnel Office)
Grants
Job postings and job descriptions (Contact: Town Manager's Office)
Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) (Contact: Town Manager's Office)
Minutes of Open Meetings and Hearings
Notices of Open Meetings and Hearings
Permits (Contact: Inspectional Services for building permits; Fire Department for fire related permits; and Health Department for health related permits, etc.)
Public policies/procedures/regulations

• Time for search, segregation, or copying, including employees or necessary
vendors, such as legal counsel, technology and payroll consultants or others
as needed, shall be assessed as a fee to the requester based upon the
prorated hourly rate of the lowest paid employee in that office capable of
doing the work, not to exceed $25 per hour unless a higher rate is approved
by the Supervisor of Records.

The Town may refuse to provide records to any person who has not paid a reasonable
estimate for provision of public records or who has failed to pay such a fee in
connection with a prior request for public records.

Public Records Request Process:

1. Requests for public records may be made orally in person or in writing to an RAO or
other Town official.

2. Requests for copies of records or access thereto may still be made “over the counter”
in person at the appropriate Town office; provided, however, that oral requests may
not be the basis of an appeal to the state’s Supervisor of Public Records.

3. Written requests may be delivered by a requester to the business address or email
address of an RAO or other Town official by hand, by mail, by email, or by facsimile.

4. A public records request form will be available to anyone making a public records
request, but neither that form, nor any other type of written request, shall be
required.

5. Any person requesting public records may seek out and contact any RAO for assistance
in determining the appropriate RAO or custodian of records.

6. Requests to a Town official other than an RAO may be handled by that official;
provided, however, that the official shall inform the appropriate RAO who will provide
such response as may be necessary or appropriate. Any RAO receiving a public records
request shall within 24 hours notify the Primary RAO.

7. Requests for public records shall include a reasonable description of the requested
record so that the RAO can identify and locate it promptly. The RAO may contact the
requester in order to clarify a request, to ensure that the requester and the RAO
understand what is being requested and/or to assist the requester in narrowing or
refining the request.

8. The RAO may require payment of a reasonable fee prior to producing a public record,
as follows:

• There shall be a charge of .5 cents for black and white paper copies or
computer printouts of public records for both single and double-sided
sheets, in conformance with conform to the provisions of 950 CMR 32.08(2);

• The actual cost of a thumb drive or disk will be charged if the records are
provided electronically other than by email; and

• Time for search, segregation, or copying, including employees or necessary
vendors, such as legal counsel, technology and payroll consultants or others
as needed, shall be assessed as a fee to the requester based upon the
prorated hourly rate of the lowest paid employee in that office capable of
doing the work, not to exceed $25 per hour unless a higher rate is approved
by the Supervisor of Records.

The Town may refuse to provide records to any person who has not paid a reasonable
estimate for provision of public records or who has failed to pay such a fee in
connection with a prior request for public records.

9. There will be no charge for records that are freely available or available on the Town’s
website.

10. Subject to the exceptions set forth in M.G.L. c. 66, Sec. 10(a), the RAO is required to
respond within 10 business days of the receipt of a public records request (i) by
providing access to or copies of the requested records, (ii) by providing the requester
with direction to access the requested records on the Town’s website, or (iii) by
notifying the requester in writing that all or a portion of the records will be withheld
from disclosure and/or that the records will not be provided in that timeframe,
addressing the other elements required by law as set forth in M.G.L. c. 66, Sec. 10(b).

For the purpose of response time:

• Business days are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except
for legal holidays and any day when Town Hall is closed for business due to
emergency, weather, or other events requiring the unexpected closure of
business.
• Calculation of time shall begin with the first business day following the date
of receipt of the public records request (see 950 CMR 32.03(3)).

• Example #1: A request for public records is received by an RAO at 2:00
p.m. on a Wednesday. “Day 1” for purposes of the law will be Thursday.

• Example #2: A public records request received after hours on a Friday.
“Day 1” for the purposes of the law will be Monday (or Tuesday, if Monday
is a holiday).

• Example #3: An email requesting public records is received on Saturday.
“Day 1” for the purposes of the law will be Monday (or Tuesday, if Monday
is a holiday).

11. If the response to a public records request is anticipated to be time consuming,
extensive, voluminous, or otherwise puts a burden on the Town or its departments,
the RAO may notify the requester that the RAO will comply within 25 business days of
the receipt of the request, or seek an extension of time from the Massachusetts

Supervisor of Records. The requester of the public records shall be notified in writing
that an extension has been requested.

12. If the Town fails to comply with a requirement of the Public Records Law, the
requestor may file an appeal with the Supervisor of Records who must issue a
determination within 10 business days.

Administration:
RAOs shall meet on such dates and times, whether regularly or intermittently, as the Primary
RAO shall determine. Such meetings are strictly administrative in nature and do not
constitute a meeting of a public body under the Open Meeting Law. Meetings among the RAOs
may occur in person, by telephone, or by email.

PUBLIC RECORD REQUEST FORM

PUBLIC RECORDS ACCESS OFFICER   -    LUCIA LONGHURST, TOWN CLERK          

BOARD OF ASSESSORS              DENISE ELLIS                  
BOARD OF HEALTH                      CHRIS ZAHNER               
CEMETERY/HIGHWAY                  NASHLEE KETCHUM      
CONSERVATION                           JENNIFER CARLINO        
INSPECTIONS                               KATHY INGARGIOLA        
PLANNING/ZONING                      TABITHA HARKIN              
TREASURER/COLLECTOR          CATHRYN VANDYNE       
ACCOUNTING                               JAMES PUELLO               
TOWN MANAGER'S OFFICE        MICHELLE BROWN          
WATER/SEWER DEPARTMENT   BERNARD MARSHALL    
POLICE DEPARTMENT                 MICHELLE GOODWIN      
FIRE DEPARTMENT                      JUDY MCCARRON