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Walsh orders quick response to requests for public records

Follows delays in release of basic pay information

Mayor Martin J. Walsh's chief of staff ordered top city officials to respond to a public records request within 48 hours after the Globe reported it took the administration more than two months to provide basic payroll data.

Chief of staff Daniel Koh sent an e-mail Friday to the city's Cabinet chiefs and department heads.

Koh wrote that if a response is not possible within 48 hours, a department must provide a detailed explanation. The response would be reviewed by Koh and the mayor, according to the memo.

"It is Mayor Walsh's top priority to lead a transparent and open government," Koh wrote. "It is our responsibility to work together to fulfill that goal."

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When he became mayor, Walsh vowed to usher in a new era of transparency at City Hall. As part of an assessment of Walsh's first year in office, the Globe used the state's open records law in early December to request payroll information that would show new hires, resignations, retirements, and firings.

The city released some data Thursday after the Globe asked for comment on a story about the administration's reluctance to release public records. In an interview, Walsh voiced his displeasure.

"It's inexcusable. The stuff that has been released in the past can and will be released," Walsh said Thursday. "It appears this is an internal breakdown that I'm not happy about. It will be fixed."

Government agencies are required to respond to a records request within 10 business days and provide the records "as soon as practicable" and "without unreasonable delay," according to the secretary of state's office.

On several previous occasions, Walsh's administration did release payroll data. However, the city has begun withholding racial and ethnic data for city employees, a decision the Globe is challenging in court. The previous mayor, Thomas M. Menino, released the information, but the Walsh administration has cited privacy concerns.

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Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com or on Twitter @globeandrew-ryan.