Secretary Of State Deems Hingham Noncompliant With Refusal To Release Public Records
By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff; September 17, 2020
For the second time in one month, the Supervisor of Records at the Secretary of State's Office has determined that the Town of Hingham has not been compliant with the law by refusing to release records in response to a resident's Public Records Request.
In a letter dated July 27th, Dan Nardo submitted a request to the Public Information Officer at the Hingham Police Department asking for information about incident #20-28394. Specifically he was looking to receive copies of log entries, written reports and supplemental reports about an officer who wrote he had been "FOLLOWED BY A PARTY WITH A SIGN" on Derby Street on June 5th. Nardo also requested radio transmissions, telephone communications and text message correspondences related to the incident.
On August 12th, Nardo filed a separate request asking for "any and all contracts, reports, agreements, documents, and financial records concerning the Town of Hingham's work with Ms. Regina Ryan and/or Discrimination and Harassment Solutions in relation to the Hingham Fire Department or Hingham Firefighters Local 2398 since January 1, 2020." Click here for more information.
Town Administrator Tom Mayo and Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur responded to both requests in the same manner. They said that the documents were being withheld because the matter was under investigation and advised Nardo that the matter had been forwarded to the Attorney General's Office. With regard to the request dated July 27th specifically, Mayo stated that "it does not appear that the Town received a copy of your petition" and that "the Town has also engaged the services of Matthews & Matthews, LLC, to conduct its own review of this matter."
Nardo appealed, and the Public Records Division of the Secretary of State's Office determined that the Town did not meet the burden of proof to withhold the records. In letters dated August 20th and September 10th, the Secretary of State's Office ordered the Town to provide Nardo with responses to his requests in a manner consistent with Public Records Law. Copies of the Town's responses were to be sent to their office too.
"Our public records law strongly favors disclosure and presumes that all government records are public," said Nardo. "There are certain circumstances where the release of these records would not be in the public interest, but these circumstances are very few and far between."
The Secretary of State's Office has given the Town of Hingham ten business days in which to respond.