State: Wellesley can ignore public records request

First-of-its-kind ruling cites harassment clause

THE STATE’S SUPERVISOR OF PUBLIC RECORDS for the first time has allowed a governmental entity to ignore a citizen’s bid for documents because the request was a form of harassment or intimidation.

The ruling by Rebecca Murray dealt with Wellesley resident Ronald Alexander, who has filed more than 200 public records requests with the town since 2013 – 162 with the school department and school committee, 40 with the Board of Selectmen, and seven with the police department.

Murray based her decision on a provision in the new public records law that took effect in January. The law states that a government agency may petition the supervisor of public records for permission to ignore a citizen’s request for documents if the request is intended to intimidate or harass officials.

Wellesley and Alexander have been battling over records requests for years. The town sought to take advantage of the provision in the new public records law in April, but Murray rejected its petition, deciding instead to give the town more time to respond to Alexander’s request.

The town sought relief again in September after Alexander made a public records request for all of the 190 public records requests since 2013 that were mentioned at a meeting of the Wellesley School Committee. It turns out that most of those requests were filed by Alexander.

In the town’s petition to Murray, Judith Belliveau, the assistant school superintendent, and Meghan Jop, the town assistant executive director, described Alexander’s records request as “at the very best . . . frivolous.” They added: “Requiring the town to continue responding to these requests would be a farcical absurdity.”

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Murray this time granted Wellesley’s petition, saying that Alexander’s request for the school committee documents “is part of a series of contemporaneous requests that are frivolous or designed to intimidate or harass.”

Alexander could not be reached for comment.