Nickeled and dimed

Dartmouth officials give little in public records requests

THE TOWN OF Dartmouth is certainly a stickler for the rules, unwilling to forego a nickel copying fee for a document disclosing a legal settlement involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CommonWealth sent a public records request to Town Administrator David Cressman for a copy of a settlement agreement between Dart-mouth and its former police chief, Timothy Lee.

Lee, who had been collecting $161,000 a year in pay, had filed a $4 million suit against the town in federal court, alleging civil rights, defamation, and other violations. The town and its ex-cop eventually settled for $650,000.


Cressman’s office responded by mailing an invoice for 5 cents to cover the cost of copying the one-page agreement.

Town officials declined to waive the fee, even though it was going to cost the municipality more than 5 cents in postage and handling to collect the copying fee.

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Public records regulations also allow town officials to waive the fee when the disclosure of a record is in the public interest or the request for records is not primarily of a commercial nature.

The nickel was paid (by credit card) and the settlement agreement was sent out by both email and via the US Postal Service, complete with a 46.5-cent postage meter stamp on the envelope.