This week is Sunshine Week, a national initiative on the importance of government transparency, public records, and freedom of information. Every state uses some form of open records law to ensure a transparent government. It allows citizens to keep an eye on government activity by requesting documents from different branches of government. In Massachusetts that law needs work.
State government agencies can easily reject queries, leaving requesters with little recourse. They can submit an administrative appeal to the secretary of the Commonwealth, who can then refer violations to the attorney general’s office. But don’t count on that route; the attorney general’s office received no referrals in the past year. Requesters can also file a lawsuit. But this is a costly proposition because the law does not allow the recovery of attorney’s fees even if you win.