TALK TO THE HAND (BECAUSE BILL GALVIN AIN’T LISTENIN’)

Secretary holds sham hearing on public records access

BY MAYA SHAFFER


William Galvin doesn’t seem to care about what the public has to say about access to records in Massachusetts.

Despite being tasked with generating a new set of regulations for the updated public records law, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office’s proposal failed to address the vague language of the law. Furthermore, Galvin exempted his office from its duty, under the new law, to handle appeals in a timely manner. This duty was included in the update because the secretary has been taking months to handle appeals.

Before new records regulations can become official, Galvin’s office had to hold a hearing to get input from the public. But on Oct 6, the secretary held a sham of a hearing where no one was heard. The dog and pony show took place in a small room overlooking the State House and overflowed into the hallway. While numerous concerned groups and some members of the media attended, Galvin’s office sent only a single staff attorney, Steven Shorey, to the meeting with an assistant who helped gather the names of the people who would waste their breath.

Shorey explained that his job was to listen to verbal testimony and then relay information to Supervisor of Records Shawn Williams — so that the testimony would be considered while they prepared the final version of the regulations. One may have expected Williams to appear in person since the hearing was scheduled by Galvin’s office, and given that he was the one who particularly needed to hear the public’s input, but he did not.

Shorey listened to about an hour of verbal testimony and wrote down nothing whatsoever. Questioned about the lack of notes, he clarified that no one from his office was taking any type of recordings. Following the hearing, in speaking with another journalist, Shorey said he didn’t need to take any notes because his office had previously received lots of written testimony. I confronted Shorey at that point, asking what the purpose of the hearing was. He replied, “To hear testimony about the regulations.” I pressed him further about the lack of notes and about Williams’ absence, and Shorey told me, “I was just here to conduct this hearing. That’s all I can say.”

For the record: The hearing was required by law before the regulations could be made official. The purpose of that law is to give the public a say in what regulations get on the books, but Galvin’s office made it clear that such opinions will not be considered. In the meantime, the people of Massachusetts are left waiting to see if the final regulations will be as bad as the proposed ones.