The Patrick administration declined yesterday to release detailed cellphone records of Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, rejecting the request by the Globe and other news organizations for documents that might have shown whom Murray talked to on his state-owned cellphone around the time of his early morning car accident on Nov. 2.
The Globe had requested records of calls to and from Murray from March 1 to Nov. 18, 2011, partly in hope of shedding light on the circumstances surrounding Murray’s rollover, which totaled his state-owned Crown Victoria. Murray has given shifting accounts of the accident’s cause, initially blaming a patch of ice, but later agreeing with State Police who suggested that he fell asleep at the wheel.
But Governor Deval Patrick’s deputy chief counsel, E. Abim Thomas, wrote to the Globe yesterday that the administration no longer receives an itemized phone bill that identifies individual calls made on state-owned cellphones.
Although the administration could request an itemized bill from its cellphone provider, Verizon Wireless, Thomas said that the state’s public records law does not require officials to request an itemized bill just to satisfy media requests.
“There are no other records in our custody that are responsive to your request, and we are not obliged to create a record in response to your request,’’ wrote Thomas.
Thomas also asserted that the governor’s office is not subject to the state’s public records law and that it only releases documents voluntarily “on a case-by-case basis.’’
Murray has repeatedly said he was not talking on the phone at the time of his accident, which occurred at 5:26 a.m. The administration has consistently refused to release the phone records.
The administration initially rejected a Globe request for Murray’s phone records Nov. 18, but the Globe appealed the decision to Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who urged the governor’s office to reconsider the request.
In his response yesterday, Thomas did release a general Verizon Wireless bill for cellphone service throughout the governor’s office. The bills show that the governor’s office spends several thousand dollars a month on cellphones, but it is unclear how much of the cost can be attributed to Murray.
The nine months of phone records the Globe requested could also have shed light on Murray’s relationship with former Chelsea Housing chief Michael E. McLaughlin, who abruptly resigned after the Globe reported Oct. 30, 2011, that he was making $360,000 a year, and had concealed more than half of his income from state regulators.
Murray has said that he could not sleep the night before the accident, in part because he was concerned about the scandal engulfing McLaughlin, a political ally. McLaughlin’s phone records, which were obtained by the Globe, show that Murray and he called each other nearly 200 times in 2010 and 2011.Scott Allen can be reached at email@example.com.