The Boston Globe filed a lawsuit against the City of Boston on Thursday, accusing government officials of failing to comply with state law in their handling of more than two dozen public records requests the newspaper has filed, including inquiries for police records involving former police commissioner Dennis White and former officer Patrick Rose.
In the complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the Globe asserted that the city 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 “months-long failures and non-compliance with the law by the City of Boston” have been “egregious,” the Globe alleged, with unfulfilled requests dating back nearly seven months.
Under state law, all municipalities are obligated within 10 business days to either “provide a requested public record, or if the municipality does not intend to provide the requested record, to inform the requestor of that intention.” If a municipality is unable to fulfill the request, state law requires them to explain why, by either citing a legal exemption or promising to provide the documents by a specified date.
“The city’s refusal to follow the public records law deprives both the Globe and the public of information vital to the functioning of democracy,” said the newspaper’s investigations editor, Scott Allen.
Spokespeople for Acting Mayor Kim Janey and the Boston Police Department declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
A number of unanswered records requests concerned the hiring and work history of White, who was placed on leave in February following a Globe inquiry into past domestic violence allegations.
A Globe reporter requested copies of internal affairs cases, anti-corruption cases, internal investigations, memos, and timestamps of White’s recent visits to police headquarters, the lawsuit stated. The city acknowledged each of these requests, but never fulfilled them. Among the requests was an inquiry into an internal affairs case where a “physical abuse” allegation against White was amended to “use of force,” according to the lawsuit.
The Police Department partially fulfilled a request for White’s recent emails, text messages, and voicemails more than a month after it was filed, according to the lawsuit, but the response provided no relevant exemptions to public records law or any timeframe for the rest of the documents.
The Globe also requested various documents in April related to the 1994 hiring of Rose, who the Globe reported kept his badge and rose to union chief despite facing a child sexual assault charge in 1995. A spokesman confirmed the Police Department had received the request but “did not provide a written response to the Rose request within ten business days, or indeed, at all. To date, neither records nor substantive response has been provided,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit asked that that the city be required to answer future public record requests “within the statutorily prescribed deadline,” and respond to the currently unanswered requests.