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The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 6A: Records access officers; designation; powers and duties

[ Text of section added by 2016, 121, Sec. 9 effective January 1, 2017 applicable as provided by 2016, 121, Sec. 18. See 2016, 121, Sec. 22.]

  Section 6A. (a) Each agency and municipality shall designate 1 or more employees as records access officers. In a municipality, the municipal clerk, or the clerk's designees, or any designee of a municipality that the chief executive officer of the municipality may appoint, shall serve as records access officers. For the purposes of this chapter the term "agency'' shall mean any entity, other than a municipality, that is identified in clause twenty-sixth of section 7 of chapter 4 as possessing "public records,'' as defined therein.

  (b) A records access officer shall coordinate an agency's or a municipality's response to requests for access to public records and shall facilitate the resolution of such requests by the timely and thorough production of public records. Each records access officer shall:

  (i) assist persons seeking public records to identify the records sought;

  (ii) assist the custodian of records in preserving public records in accordance with all applicable laws, rules, regulations and schedules; and

  (iii) prepare guidelines that enable a person seeking access to public records in the custody of the agency or municipality to make informed requests regarding the availability of such public records electronically or otherwise.

  Guidelines shall be updated periodically and shall include a list of categories of public records maintained by the agency or municipality. Each agency and municipality that maintains a website shall post the guidelines on its website.

  (c) Each agency and municipality shall post in a conspicuous location at its offices and on its website, if any, the name, title, business address, business telephone number, and business email address of each records access officer. The designation of 1 or more records access officers shall not be construed to prohibit employees who have been previously authorized to make public records or information available to the public from continuing to do so. Any employee responsible for making public records available shall provide the records in accordance with this chapter.

  (d) The records access officer shall provide the public records to a requestor by electronic means unless the record is not available in electronic form or the requestor does not have the ability to receive or access the records in a usable electronic form. The records access officer shall, to the extent feasible, provide the public record in the requestor's preferred format or, in the absence of a preferred format, in a searchable, machine readable format. The records access officer shall not be required to create a new public record in order to comply with a request, provided that furnishing a segregable portion of a public record shall not be deemed to be creation of a new record. If the public record requested is available on a public website pursuant to subsection (b) of section 19 of this chapter, section 14C of chapter 7 or any other appropriately indexed and searchable public website, the records access officer may furnish the public record by providing reasonable assistance in locating the requested record on the public website. An electronically produced document submitted to an agency or municipality for use in deliberations by a public body shall be provided in an electronic format at the time of submission.

  (e) Each records access officer of an agency shall document each request for public records submitted to the records access officer. The records access officer shall document:

  (i) the nature of the request and the date on which the request was received;

  (ii) the date on which a response is provided to the requestor;

  (iii) the date on which a public record is provided to the requestor;

  (iv) the number of hours required to fulfill the request;

  (v) fees charged to the person making the request, if any;

  (vi) petitions submitted under clause (iv) of subsection (d) of section 10;

  (vii) requests appealed under section 10A;

  (viii) the time required to comply with supervisor of records orders under said section 10A; and

  (ix) the final adjudication of any court proceedings under subsection (d) of said section 10A.

  Nothing in this subsection shall require a records access officer to disclose information otherwise protected from public access. The secretary of the commonwealth shall prescribe a form for recording such information and shall annually collect the information from the records access officers, post the information on a website maintained by the secretary and report the same to the clerks of the house of representatives and senate.

  (f) The supervisor of records shall document appeals filed under section 10A, including:

  (i) the date the request was submitted to the records access officer;

  (ii) the date the records access officer responded;

  (iii) the amount of fees charged to the requestor, if any;

  (iv) petitions made pursuant to clause (iv) of subsection (d) of section 10;

  (v) the time required to comply with supervisor of records orders under said section 10A; and

  (vi) the final adjudication of any court proceedings under subsection (d) of said section 10A.

  Nothing in this subsection shall require the supervisor to disclose information otherwise protected from public access. The secretary of the commonwealth shall prescribe a form for recording such information and shall post the information on a website maintained by the secretary.