State Finds Problems with City Hall’s Handling of Boston 2024 Records

Despite what the city's Law Department says, emails must always be included in public records searches.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

In June, Boston magazine asked, “Does Boston City Hall Have a Public Records Problem?” Last week, the state appears to have offered an answer: “Yup.”

State Supervisor of Records Shawn Williams ruled in favor of Joel Fleming, Dan Currie, and No Boston 2024’s Jonathan Cohn, who filed a joint appeal alleging the city’s former Chief of Government Services Maribeth Cusick failed to comply with the state’s public records law while conducting searches for records responsive to the now-defunct Boston 2024 Olympic bid.

“Attorney Cusick contends the City must only search for email records when directed to do so by a requester. The law, however states otherwise,”  Williams ruled in his August 3 decision, obtained by Boston. “‘Public records’ is broadly defined to include all documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee of any town of the Commonwealth, unless falling within a statutory exemption.”

In April, Cusick wrote to Williams arguing that because a search of the city’s email system is time-consuming and diverts significant staff time, “the City only conducts such searches when specifically requested, and generally charges $0.88/email to account for the search, segregation, and review time associated with such.” This did not fly with Williams, who—in the case of Fleming’s request for records concerning property taxes in relation to Boston 2024, as well as two sections of Joinder Agreement—said it’s “unclear whether the City conducted a complete search.”

“I find the City erred in omitting email records from its response to the requests for public records by all three requesters,” Williams wrote.

Williams has ordered the city to provide Fleming, Currie, and Cohn with written responses making reference to records requested, records provided, and any remaining records that have yet to be provided, “regardless of physical form,” by Thursday. Copies must also be sent to Williams’ office.

“The Law Department will review the decision,” Laura Oggeri, Mayor Marty Walsh’s spokeswoman, said in a statement Saturday night.

Though the United States Olympic Committee pulled the plug, the Boston 2024 saga is hardly over. You can read Williams’ decision below.