Mayor signs new transparency in government law, but says reason for Framingham Council law is ‘not on a fair basis’
FRAMINGHAM – Mayor Yvonne Spicer on Thursday promulgated the city council’s new open and transparent government policy.
“I approve the order as proposed, as described in more detail below. I think it’s important to offer a few comments to put this discussion in context. At the outset, we can all agree that transparency is important. The City responds to thousands of requests for public documents per year and regularly updates the city’s website, issues press releases and conducts community outreach activities, dialogues and meetings with residents and stakeholders. to advance this important goal. However, the reasoning of the council for enacting this ordinance is not fairly based on the actual day-to-day experience of the public in obtaining public documents in the town of Framingham, ”Spicer wrote to the chairman of the town council and the 10 others. board members.
The 11-member city council voted 10-1 on May 4 and unanimously on May 18 to pass the policy. Mayor Spicer promulgated it on June 3.
The policy states that “Framingham is committed to open and participatory government. The City aims to improve transparency through increased physical and electronic access to public information. Massachusetts law protects the right to access public information and has a long history of requiring government disclosure of documents. The City fulfills this responsibility to citizens by proactively posting frequently requested documents on its website and providing timely access or copies of public documents upon request. The City will work diligently to respond to the spirit, intent and content of requests for public records in a timely manner. Accredited media should only be directed to the public registration process as a last resort. “
The policy also states that “The municipal bulletin board should be simple and straightforward, focused on the user experience. It should use best practices, modern equipment and current techniques to make information easily accessible in person or online. In addition to what is required by law, all City agencies, departments, divisions or multi-member offices must do their utmost to proactively post items of interest or potential interest from residents, groups of residents, groups of people. residents or neighborhoods.
“On the basis of the documentation kept by the City, requests for public documents for the most part receive a rapid response, often well within the 10 working days authorized by law. There is admittedly a subset of the hundreds of anonymous requests made in 2021 alone which are submitted by applicants using false names which are made at a significantly higher rate than in previous years who often search for documents spanning long periods of time, often several years, which takes many hours to review or requires the submission of good faith estimates, as these will take many multiples of the two hours of employee time at no charge permitted by law, ”Mayor Spicer wrote.
“These requests are often worded broadly and relate to thousands of emails or documents, or documents requiring review and
drafting to protect privacy and other interests that we are required to protect from disclosure by law. Our employees do their best to comply with these requests, while juggling multiple day-to-day responsibilities with a lack of time and resources. For these reasons, the ordinance seeks in many ways to resolve a problem of public records that does not exist and, moreover, only reaffirms existing practices or requirements relating to City public meetings that do not exist. were never a problem in the first place.
“Nonetheless, the administration will comply with this ordinance to the extent permitted by the Framingham Self-Governing Charter. Where the ordinance is intended to give orders or directions to municipal officials and employees of the City on the manner in which they must respond to requests for public documents beyond what is already required by the Public Documents Act, I remind Council again that the Charter expressly prohibits these types of directives and mandates to city staff under article II, section 3 (b), and our employees will continue to abide by state law on this matter, ”the mayor concluded yesterday in her note to city council.
The new City law also requires that “all licenses issued by the City, including licenses to grow, manufacture and sell marijuana, and all contracts performed on behalf of the City be prominently published in a format available on the Town’s website ”.