Want Emails Between City Hall and General Electric? That’ll Be $1,746.24

A public records request on the big GE move to Boston was met with a hefty price tag.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

General Electric’s announcement last month that it would be moving its global headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston was met with immediate praise by the state’s power brokers. Mayor Marty Walsh compared it to winning the Powerball, while Sen. Ed Markey mused that the corporation ought to change its slogan to “We bring good things to Mass.” The Globe, save for Evan Horowitz’s hard look at the move’s real impact on the local economy, wrote glowingly of the corporation’s Seaport advent. In her anatomy of the courtship, columnist Shirley Leung said the incentives-heavy GE deal was the fruit of Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker’s “bromance,” three days after she declared it “better than hosting the Olympics.”

But if you really want to see how the sausage was made—that is, conversations between City Hall and GE—you’ll have to pay. Handsomely.

Andrew Quemere of the Bay State Examiner filed a public records request via MuckRock on February 3, seeking all written and electronic communications between City Hall and GE and its representatives from January 1, 2014 to now. This week, George T. Bahnan, a paralegal in Walsh’s Law Department, handed Quemere a $1,746.24 estimate for the 2,568 emails found in an initial review. Bahnan’s response makes no mention of written communications..

As we learned during the Boston 2024 saga, the Law Department charges 68 cents to cover the “search, segregation, review, and copying” of each email requested. Other agencies within City Hall, like the Boston Redevelopment Authority, have elected to waive the processing fees for some requests in the past.

When asked if GE would either cover the fee or release the emails themselves in the interest of transparency, a spokesperson declined to comment. Though asked, the Mayor’s Office did not comment on whether it would consider waiving Quemere’s fee altogether.

“The city is currently working with more than one outlet to provide emails related to GE in response to public records requests,” Walsh’s spokesperson Bonnie McGilpin told Boston. “They received a cost estimate from the city and worked collaboratively with the city to lower the cost through discussions on how to narrow the request without limiting the content of the results. While the same offer to modify the request was made to the Bay State Examiner, Mr. Quemere has not made any further contact with the city. Documents submitted to GE and the agreement signed by the city, state and GE were previously released.”

Quemere’s request is currently being crowdfunded on MuckRock, while a similar request awaits response from Baker’s office.