Another Public Records Headache for Boston City Hall

The Walsh administration says text messages are off limits to public records requests.

The forward thinking administration of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has gone out of its way to distance itself from its predecessor and prove it is on the cutting edge of urban technology. Every month, it seems, the Walsh administration is rolling out some new app or reform that makes living in Boston easier with new technical wizbangery. Want to pay a parking ticket? Sure, no problem, there’s an app for that. Don’t know when your trash day is? There’s an app for that. Permitting process is a mess? Not anymore. Walsh’s City Hall has even done the opposite of its counterparts in other east coast cities and welcomed ride hailing apps with open arms.

Even with all this innovation, City Hall has not figured out how to collect text messages for public records requests.

The Boston Globe reported on Sunday that City Hall denied the paper’s public request for text messages between Walsh and his Chief of Staff Dan Koh on crucial days during the city’s failed Olympic bid. An attorney for the city told the Globe that the city lacked the “technical capacity” to provide copies of the text messages by staffers to the broadsheet. WFXT’s Mike Beaudet received a similar response from the city for his own public records requests. The move blocking the Globe’s request is the latest in a series of transparency headaches for City Hall that seemingly increased as the Olympic bid progressed.

City attorney Caroline Driscoll told the Globe that there is no city policy that requires employees to archive or save all their work text messages. She did not confirm to the Globe the status or existence of the text messages the paper is seeking.

Walsh’s communication director Laura Oggeri called the Globe’s request for the text messages a “violation of his private life.”

On Saturday, the Walsh administration received a stern reprimand from the state for its handling of public records requests pertaining to the Olympic bid.  State Supervisor of Records Shawn Williams said the city failed to comply with the state’s toothless public records law when responding to requests for internal emails by Boston 2024 opponents. “I find the City erred in omitting email records from its response to the requests for public records by all three requesters,” said Williams in her finding.

Oggeri said to Boston that the city’s legal department will review the state’s ruling.