As the following examples indicate, the Curtatone administration routinely ignores, delays, or over-charges for data sought under the state’s public records law, in contrast to what the Mayor calls an “open, transparent and efficient government”.
Here are just two examples of the many instances in which Mayor Curtatone professes to deliver on that promise:
Created an “Accurate, Courteous, Easy” (ACE) Customer Service Initiative. Mayor Curtatone is committed to providing excellent customer service to all Somerville residents, which requires a transparent, open city government.
In an Apr 18, 2008 City press release, he is quoted as saying:
Today the City of Somerville is a model of open, transparent and efficient government
Despite these claims, public records requests made by myself and fellow resident-journalist eila are often ignored, delayed, or over-charged.
Ignored requests (no response was received):
- My Dec. 21, 2010 request for “All records in the City’s 311 database in 2009 and 2010″. This one is ironic because it’s about the 311 program, the Mayor’s flagship ACE program meant to deliver transparency and openness.
- My May 21, 2011 follow-up email questionnaire to my previous Parking Ticket Trends Story. Technically, this wasn’t filed under the public records law, but that’s no excuse for it being ignored.
- eila’s Mar 7, 2011 request for a complete list of all city-owned properties
- eila’s Apr 26, 2011 request for waiting lists of public housing in Somerville (resubmitted on July 24, 2011)
- eila’s Jun 23, 2011 request for Building Permits issued for Teele Square Fire Station Renovations
- eila’s Jun 29, 2011 request for documents relating to HUD-funded Economic Development at 349 Broadway
Delayed responses (response was delayed past the legal limit of 10 days following the request, or included a significant delay during discussion)
- My Nov 2010 request for Appeals of Fines and Parking Tickets included a delay of over a month between Matt Dias’ Nov 23, 2010 response and his Feb 18, 2011 response.
- My May 20, 2011 request for parking ticket data took a month to receive an acknowledgment.
- eila’s Apr 7, 2011 request for documents relating to the construction of 12 ADA ramps. Acknowledgment of request was timely, but a substantive response took about a month followed by another month of delay until completion.
Over-charged costs (seemingly unnecessary costs are added to (1) photocopy or print and documents that could easily have been sent in the original or scanned electronic format, and/or (2) review documents for sensitive information that would need to be redacted)
- The Somerville Journal was charged over $7000 for 3 months of municipal employee emails and then over $3000 when the request was modified to just 1 month. See Auditi Guha’s 8/20/2009 article Somerville still quotes hefty price tag for former employee e-mails.
- At an Oct 2009 Board of Alderman meeting Ward 6 Ald. Gewirtz submitted a resolution to review the City’s policies on public records requests. See Meghann Ackerman’s 10/12/2009 article How much should Somerville’s public records cost?
- Tom Nash/Post Somerville’s Sep 2009 request for copies of municipal campaign finance reports cost $100 before the City eventually decided to put all the reports online for free.
- My Nov 2010 request for Appeals of Fines and Parking Tickets was initially priced at $226.50, then lowered to $196.50 despite all the data being taken from an electronic database. Data was eventually supplied as a scanned PDF instead of as a more accessible tabular format.
- My May 20, 2011 request for parking ticket data was priced at approx $900.00 despite the fact that a virtually identical request was fulfilled free of charge when submitted by NECIR’s Joe Bergantino.