Failure to maintain public records of meetings; orders to maintain
Section 17C. Upon proof of failure of a governmental body as defined in section eleven A of chapter thirty A, section nine F of chapter thirty-four and section twenty-three A of chapter thirty-nine, or by any member or officer thereof to carry out any of the provisions prescribed by this chapter for maintaining public records, a justice of the supreme judicial or the superior court sitting within and for the county in which such governmental body acts or, in the case of a governmental body of the commonwealth, sitting within and for any county, shall issue an appropriate order requiring such governmental body or member or officer thereof to carry out the provisions of this chapter. Such order may be sought by complaint of three or more registered voters, by the attorney general, or by the district attorney for the county in which the governmental body acts. The order of notice on the complaint shall be returnable no later than ten days after the filing thereof and the complaint shall be heard and determined on the return day or on such day thereafter as the court shall fix, having regard to the speediest possible determination of the cause consistent with the rights of the parties; provided, however, that orders with respect to any of the matters referred to in this section may be issued at any time on or after the filing of the complaint without notice when such order is necessary to fulfill the purposes of this section. In the hearing of any such complaint the burden shall be on the respondent to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the actions complained of in such complaint were in accordance with and authorized by section eleven B of chapter thirty A, by section nine G of chapter thirty-four or by section twenty-three B of chapter thirty-nine. All processes may be issued from the clerk’s office in the county in which the action is brought and, except as aforesaid, shall be returnable as the court orders.
Any such order may also, when appropriate, require the records of any such meeting of a governmental body to be made a public record unless it shall have been determined by such justice that the maintenance of secrecy with respect to such records is authorized by section eleven B of chapter thirty A, by section nine G of chapter thirty-four or by section twenty-three B of chapter thirty-nine. The remedy created hereby is not exclusive, but shall be in addition to every other available remedy.