December 8, 2008

FYI-I am enclosing a news article from the Worcester Telegram about their tedious efforts to obtain Public records relative to allegations of Police Overtime Abuse and an Internal Affairs Issue. My concerns in my comment are the administration and implementation Public Records Laws. The Media and citizenry should not be victims because of the failure by the office of Attorney General and Secretary of State to enforce and prosecute Public records laws in a rapid and comprehensive manner. The barriers and hurdles the media and citizens face to obtain Public Records must be improved by stronger administration and enforcement.

FROM: John Gatti Jr,
Reader Comments

Transparency and Openness in Government must be practiced at all times.

Inefficiency, waste, and management in Government expenditures cannot be tolerated. However,if the goal of the media is sensational tabloid journalism, that also cannot be tolerated and civil rights of public employees must be honored.

What this public records request brings out is what some have been stating for years relative to Massachusetts Public Records Laws.

These laws are not being enforced and implemented. The past two Attorney Generals Harshbarger, Reilly, and now Coakley do not even handily enforce or routinely dismiss this law. Former Secretary of State Connolly and now successor Galvin cannot obtain even handed prosecution from the Office of Attorney General when a judged violation occurs. Public Records Supervisor Alan Cote decision making process is impotent at best.

This case clearly shows government failure to make judgements on public records disclosure on a definitive basis one way or another. Massachusetts desperately needs a Freedom of Information Commission to make rapid judgements on what are Public Records and what are not.

Most troubling to those of us that deal daily with public access is the time,effort,and expense the Telegram has gone through on this issue to obtain a resolution. This brings the pertinent point that how many other denials of access the Telegram, all media, and citizens who lack the financial means to pursue access then face a stone wall, tire and stop.

Another serious flaw and locally is the political discrimination manner that District Attorneys selectively administer Open Meeting Laws. Our local District Attorney Attorney Joseph D.Early Jr is a prime example violator.

Calls for strong reform and implementation for Public Records,Open Meeting, Whistleblower, and Shield laws continuely are dismissed by Government leaders. The Media and Citizens must have a strong outcry to save our Press Freedoms and Free Speech.
-John Gatti Jr
Dec 8, 2008

T&G to receive officer’s records

File on cop more than 1,500 pages


WORCESTER— The internal affairs records of Police Officer Mark A. Rojas will be turned over to the Telegram & Gazette by tomorrow, City Manager Michael V. O’Brien said yesterday.

Last week, Police Chief Gary J. Gemme said the records were not going to be released on Wednesday — the day he said they were going to be turned over — because a lawyer for the patrolmen’s union asked to review the 1,508-page file.

The chief agreed to postpone the release until at least Thursday, but Mr. O’Brien said yesterday the records will be available tomorrow.
“The chief informed me today (Sunday) that the T&G’s FOIA request for Officer Rojas’s employment file will have all internal reviews complete by Tuesday, December 9, 2008 and will have this set for pick up by the close of business on the ninth,” Mr. O’Brien said. “I trust this will bring closure to this matter.”

Mr. O’Brien said the chief contacted the patrolmen’s union and those officials are aware of the timetable.

The T&G initially requested copies of citizen complaints against Officer Rojas in April. The Police Department was paid $1,500 for the records Aug. 28.

Police spokesman Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst said a lawyer for the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 911 wouldn’t be able to review the redacted file until Thursday.

“I stated from the outset that this particular request is rife with extraordinary circumstances. As you know, there is an external investigation under way regarding overtime abuse allegations, tying up internal resources to properly support this effort,” Mr. O’Brien said. “This FOIA request also required more due diligence than is typical, for it an extensive employment file over 1,500 pages containing active criminal investigations, witnesses, whistleblowers and other sensitive law enforcement information that cannot be released.”

The Police Department released a sample of the records recently. One page was completed blacked out and another had several redactions.