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Public Records Law and Resources
On June 3, 2016, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act to Improve Public Records,” enhancing public access to information. That law went into effect January 1, 2017.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts broadly defines what constitutes a public record.  The public records law includes nearly all documentary materials or data of any form generated, received or maintained by the Town, its employees, boards, committees and commissions.  In order to protect certain privacy and security interests, there are certain narrowly defined statutory exemptions prohibiting particular public records, or portions thereof, from disclosure. A list of public records that are exempt may be found at

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleI/Chapter4/Section7

The following information is offered to guide the public in gaining access to public records in the custody of the Town. The information and lists contained herein are not exhaustive, and any questions or concerns regarding public records should be directed to the Records Access Officer listed below.

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/preidx.htm

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2016/Chapter121

http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/950-CMR-32-00-2017-Edition-final.pdf

http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/guide.pdf

Records Access Officer Duties
The Massachusetts Public Records Law requires the appointment of a Records Access Officer (RAO) and the responsibilities of the ROA include:

Coordinates the Town of Needham’s response to public records requests;

Assists individuals who seek records to identify the records sought;

Assists the custodian of records to preserve public records in accordance with the law;

Prepares, posts online, and periodically updates guidelines to enable the public to make informed public records requests; and

Documents, in compliance with c. 66 § 6A(e), specific information about each request made for public records.

Please contact the Records Access Officer in writing regarding public records requests for documents pursuant to A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law.  Records will generally be provided within the allotted time barring an exception.  In this case the Records Access Officer will contact the requestor with an explanation for the delay and a good faith estimate of any fees that may be charged for the production of the records and a reasonable timeframe for when the records will be provided, which generally will not exceed 25 business days from the initial request.

Contact the Records Access Officer
The Town Manager has designated the following individual as the Primary Records Access Officer (RAO) who will assist requestors in fulfilling their requests:

Theodora K. Eaton MMC
Town Clerk
Needham Town Hall
1471 Highland Ave.
Needham, MA 02492

Contact the Records Access Officer

How to Obtain Public Records
The Town of Needham encourages you to use the Contact the Records Access Officer link (above) to make a public records request of the Town. This helps to ensure the most expeditious and accurate response to your request.  Otherwise, written requests may be delivered by hand, mail, or email. While requests for public records may be made orally in person to an RAO, such requests may not be the subject of an appeal. Telephone requests may be accepted at the discretion of the RAO.

FEES

The Town may charge reasonable fees to obtain public records.  The law allows the Town to charge 5 cents for black and white paper copies or computer printouts of public records for both single and double-sided sheets.  The first two hours of work performed to respond to a public records request will be performed at no cost. After two hours, the Town may charge up to $25 per hour.

TIPS

Please note, the information you seek may already be available online.

Consider how you can narrow the scope of your request to expedite the production process.

The Town must adhere to the law requiring that it to secure personally identifiable information and prevent unwarranted invasions of privacy. Documents containing such information must be redacted carefully before releasing, expanding time needed for production. Consider how you might revise your public records request to exclude records containing such information.

Public Record Request Administrative Appeals
If the Town fails to comply with a requirement of the Public Records Law, the requestor may file an appeal with the Supervisor of Records who will then issue a determination on the public status of the records within 10 business days of receipt of the request for an appeal.