What Are Public Records?
The Massachusetts General Laws define public records as “all books, papers, maps, photographs, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee” of any Massachusetts governmental entity, unless a specific exemption exists.
For more information about the public records law, please see the Secretary of State’s publication, A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law (PDF). To read the law in full, please see G. L. c. 4, § 7(26), G. L. c. 66, and 950 C.M.R. § 32.00 (PDF).
All records are retained in accordance with state records retention regulations. The university adheres to the Statewide Records Retention Schedule and the MA State Colleges Retention Schedule. For more information about record retention, please visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Public Records Division website.
Links to commonly requested public records:
- Annual Financial Reports
- Annual Security Report
- Common Data Set
- Invitations to bid and winning bids for public contracts
- Awards of federal, state and municipal government grants
- Board of Trustee meeting agendas and minutes
- Agency budget
What type of public records does Westfield State University maintain?
- Policies, procedures, guides, handbooks
- Financial records
- Institutional data
How do I make a public records request?
While record requests can be made verbally (in person) or in writing to the Record Access Officer (RAO), written requests via email are preferred. No specific format is required, but the Secretary of the Commonwealth has provided the following sample request letter with recommended language. To help in completing the request, Westfield State University has filled in the RAO’s information into the template. Written requests can be mailed to the address below or emailed to email@example.com.
Sample request letter from the Secretary of the Commonwealth:
Date request mailed
Westfield State University
333 Western Avenue
Westfield, MA 01086
Re: Massachusetts Public Records Request
Dear Jean Beal:
This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10). I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:
[Please include a detailed description of the information you are seeking.]
I recognize that you may charge reasonable costs for copies, as well as for personnel time needed to comply with this request. If you expect costs to exceed $10.00, please provide a detailed fee estimate.
The Public Records Law requires you to provide me with a written response within 10 business days. If you cannot comply with my request, you are statutorily required to provide an explanation in writing.
Contact Information (address, email, telephone)
Tips for making a request:
- Be specific in your request, including the dates or timeframe for the documents you are requesting. This will help the RAO in fulfilling the request as quickly as possible.
- Consider how you can narrow the scope of your request so that the records can be produced more efficiently and affordably.
- Include the preferred format of the records in your request. Whenever feasible the ROA will provide a digital copy of the request in a searchable, machine readable format.
- Westfield State must adhere to laws regarding the protection of personally identifiable information (PII). Records containing PII will require redaction, increasing the time that employees work on the request and potentially the fee assessed for the records. Consider excluding records that contain PII whenever possible.
Q: When will my request be responded to?
A: For most requests, the Public Records Law requires that a response be sent to the requestor within 10 business days of receipt of the request and that the request be fulfilled in its entirety within 15 business days. If the difficulty of the request prevents it from being fulfilled within 15 days, the University may petition the Commonwealth’s Supervisor of Records for an extension not to exceed 20 business days.
Q: Will there be a cost associated with the request?
A: There may be a fee assessed for public records, depending on the request. No fee for employee time can be charged for requests that require less than four hours of employee time searching for, compiling, segregating, redacting, or reproducing records. Requests that require over four hours of employee time may be assessed a fee equal to the hourly rate of the lowest paid employee who has the skill level to perform the work, limited to $25 an hour, for time in excess of the first four hours. A fee for paper copies or printouts may be assessed for 5 cents a page for black and white single and double-sided copies. If a fee will be assessed, the Record Access Officer will provide an itemized, good faith estimate prior to fulfillment of the request.