Open Meeting Law
The Massachusetts “Open Meeting Law” as we know it (MGL 39:23B), was enacted in 1975 as Chapter 303 of the Acts of 1975, although its roots date back to 1958. There have been a number of amendments to the OML since 1975, but its general provisions remain the same.
The purpose of the OML is to promote the public’s understanding of governmental operations by eliminating much of the secrecy that in the past often surrounded deliberations and decisions upon which public policy was based. To accomplish this purpose, the OML requires public discussion of governmental action at a meeting for which no less than 48-hours notice has to be given.
Of course, there are also statutory exemptions for meetings that are considered “emergency” in nature, as well as, provisions for governmental bodies to meet in “executive session”; however, all such exclusions to the public meeting forum must be in accordance with the statures outlined in the Law.
The County District Attorney’s Office for each municipality is charged with acting on complaints of the OML. For more information visit the Franklin Hampshire District Attorney’s Office you will also find a link to their Guideline Booklet
The Public Records Law provides that every person has a right of access to public information, whether it is to view or obtain copies of what is defined as a “public record.” (See Public Records-MGL 66:10). The custodian may require the request to be in writing in order to provide the correct material, however, she/he may not do so merely to delay providing the record. The custodian has up to ten days to respond to the request. The response can be to provide the record, to outline the procedure that will be required to supply the record, or to provide a written denial based on one of the statutory exemptions.
If the request is lengthy and /or the retrieval process is complicated, the custodian may also assess a fee for the record, as well as, a reasonable fee that may be required to search and generate a response to the request. The custodian is only required to provide records that are in existence and is not required to create a new record based on material in his/her custody to accommodate a specific request.
Code of Massachusetts Regulations 950 CMR 32.00 outlines the regulations of the Supervisor of Public Records in effectuating access to public records.
For further information, please also visit the Public Records Division website.