Despite assurances from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston 2024, the group trying to bring the Olympics to the city that year, that they are in favor of transparency, the city is trying to keep Olympics-related public records from the news media and general public. We sent this letter to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office earlier today in support of The Boston Herald after hearing about the city's reasoning for trying to withhold several public records. Supervisor of Records,
We would like to voice our support for The Boston Herald in their recent appeal related to Olympics-related documents possessed by the city of Boston.
As the Herald reported yesterday:
The Herald filed a public records appeal with the Secretary of State’s Office in February after Boston officials refused to release host cities’ contracts for the 2020 and 2022 Games — documents Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he reviewed before agreeing to the terms for hosting the Olympics.
In a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office dated April 23, Boston 2024 officials argued those contracts should not be released publicly because the city would be breaking its promises to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee to withhold “confidential information” from the public.
“The Requested Information is precisely the type of confidential information that the Bidding Process Agreement and the IOC Code of Ethics are intended to protect,” wrote lawyer R. Robert Popeo, the Mintz Levin chairman who also serves on the Boston 2024 board of directors.
Boston 2024 officials also seemed to encourage city officials to skirt state public records law by asking City Hall to return all of the secret documents to Boston 2024 — a ploy that appeared aimed at blocking the release of the contracts should the secretary of state order the city to make the records public.
“While we respect and support the City’s priority on transparency throughout the bid process this is a confidential document, belonging to a foreign city and an international entity, to which neither the City nor Boston 2024 are parties,” Boston 2024 attorney Paige Scott Reed wrote to city lawyers in a letter dated April 15. “Therefore, we respectfully request the immediate return of any copy of the 2020 Host City Contract that might be in the City of Boston’s physical possession.”
The laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts trump any agreement the city may have entered into with Boston 2024 or any private group and, in this matter, the law is clear: “all... papers... made or received by any officer or employee of any agency” (emphasis added) are public records and potentially subject to disclosure under state law (M.G.L. Ch. 4, Sec. 7).
Furthermore, anyone who “removes [a public record] from the room where it is usually kept” is committing a crime under M.G.L. Ch. 66, Sec. 15 and is subject to “a fine of not less than ten nor more than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
We hope that you will side with the Herald in their appeal. Additionally, we hope you will put the city of Boston on notice that if any of their employees attempt to give public records away to Boston 2024 or any other private organization without clearance from your office, the matter will be referred to the attorney general's office for criminal prosecution.
Your attention to this matter is much appreciated.