Healey unveils new public records policy

Wording vague on how transparent she will be

GOV. MAURA HEALEY unveiled a new public records policy on her office’s website on Monday, but the wording leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

Previous governors going all the way back to Paul Cellucci have cited a 1997 Supreme Judicial Court case to say the governor’s office is not covered by the public records law, but many agreed to voluntarily comply with the law on a case-by-case basis.

Healey said she would be different. On December 21, she was asked by GBH radio host Jim Braude two questions:  “Will you confirm that you will not claim exemption from the public records laws as governor?” and “Will you support legislation that at least cuts back whatever exemptions the Legislature and the judiciary believe they have?” 

“Yes, yes,” Healey quickly responded.

In posting her stance on public records, Healey noted the policies of previous gubernatorial administrations and pointed out that, by law, the governor’s office is not subject to the state’s public records law because of the 1998 SJC ruling, called Lambert.

“Governor Healey intends to follow the public records law and provide more transparency to the Governor’s Office than ever before,” the policy states. “Public records requests will be evaluated based on the public records law, established exemptions, and any unique obligations of the Governor’s Office.”

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Aside from the assurances, the language of the new policy doesn’t appear to differ much from what her predecessors promised. Indeed, the reference to unique obligations introduces a new wrinkle into the debate over public records.

As for Braude’s second question asking whether she would support legislation cutting back exemptions claimed by the Legislature and the judiciary, a spokeswoman for Healey said the governor has no current plans to file legislation herself but will carefully review legislation filed by state lawmakers.