The Boston Globe is suing the Massachusetts State Police, alleging the agency has failed to comply with state law in its handling of at least three public records requests the newspaper has filed.
In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, the Globe asserted that the agency did not meet deadlines outlined in the public records law, ignored orders from the state’s public records supervisor, and refused to provide the Globe the information it sought. The Globe wants the court to make State Police produce the documents it has requested and prompt the agency to comply with the law in responding to future public records requests.
The Globe described the public records law as an important tool its reporters rely on “in connection with their journalism and their efforts to inform the citizenry.”
“When state agencies and departments fail to comply with that law, the Globe is deprived of information that is of public interest and that the public is legally entitled to know,” the lawsuit stated. “And when agencies and departments fail or refuse to respond to public records requests in compliance with that law, the Globe is forced to devote resources to appeal or otherwise contest such non-compliance.”
State Police spokesman Dave Procopio said Wednesday that the agency does not comment “on pending litigious action, thus we will withhold response to specific allegations until we can do so in the appropriate arena, the court.”
“We are committed to transparency and sharing whatever records and information we are allowed to release under the public records law, as evidenced by our replies to 5,535 records requests, the majority of them from media, attorneys, and private citizens, in 2019,” Procopio said in an e-mail.
The lawsuit focuses on three public records requests made by the Globe during the past year-and-a-half. An August 2018 request sought the name, rank, job title, departure and termination date, and discharge status for all employees who left the State Police since the beginning of 2017.
While State Police provided two lists — one for civilians and one for sworn police members — that featured names, job titles, and dates of departure, the response did not include discharge statuses. The agency claimed such information was exempt from the public records law. The Globe appealed, and the state’s public records supervisor found that State Police had not shown that the discharge status of retired employees constituted one of the “core categories of personnel information.” Still, the agency did not produce any records in response to a Jan. 4, 2019 order from the supervisor.
Another request made in August 2018 asked for the discharge status for four former State Police employees who had retired during the fallout from a controversy over how police handled the arrest of a judge’s daughter. The employees were: Richard McKeon, the superintendent of the State Police; Francis Hughes, the agency’s second in command at the time of his retirement; Daniel Risteen, the agency’s third in command when he retired, and Susan Anderson, commander of the Holden barracks. The filing also sought any materials that reflected a request for a change of discharge status by those employees.
State Police said the records were exempt from the law and has yet to produce any of them, according to the lawsuit.
The third request, submitted last May, asked State Police for communications about the conclusions of all Ethics Commission investigations since the start of 2017. State Police has still not identified the records it intends to withhold or claimed any exemptions to justify its decision, according to the Globe’s complaint.
State Police has been battered by controversy in recent years. The agency has weathered a widespread overtime fraud probe and has faced repeated allegations of systemic corruption and coverups.
Last May, the Globe reported that a year into an internal audit of overtime abuse, State Police destroyed years-old traffic citation records, evidence that federal prosecutors said prevented them from examining how far back the payroll scandal extended.
Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.