In an unusual move, the Massachusetts State Police have asked The Bay State Examiner to pay a fee before they will tell us what another fee is, a decision which we are fighting. After we requested copies of the internal affairs files for 49 state troopers, Jaclyn Zawada, an attorney with the State Police, said that producing a fee estimate for the public records request as required by law was so burdensome that they would need to be paid a "non-refundable research fee" of $710.50 first.
Zawada said it would take the State Police approximately 24 and a half hours to determine what the fee for the records should be. She said if it takes longer, the State Police may charge even more money for the "research fee."
Zawada said the State Police might not impose the "research fee" if we "narrow" the request "significantly," which we declined to do.
In previous correspondence, Glenn M. Rooney, another attorney with the State Police, said that estimating the fee for internal affairs files is labor intensive because they are kept on paper and a State Police employee must count the number of pages by hand.
We have appealed to the Supervisor of Records, the state's authority on the public records law, asking his office to order the State Police to provide us with a fee estimate at no cost.
The Massachusetts public records law and the supervisor's regulations allow government agencies to charge some fees for complying with records requests, but they do not authorize them to charge "research fees" for preparing fee estimates.
According to the supervisor's regulations, "A custodian shall provide a written, good faith estimate of the applicable copying, search time and segregation time fees to be incurred prior to complying with a public records request where the total costs are estimated to exceed ten dollars" (emphasis added).
In addition to refusing to provide us with a fee estimate, the State Police have refused to deal with our request in a timely manner. The public records law requires that government agencies comply with all records requests within 10 days, but the State Police waited 46 days before telling us about the "research fee," then another 3 days before telling us how much the "research fee" came to.
The records request is related to our investigation of how the State Police address allegations of misconduct within their ranks. Last year, we obtained a document listing the number of complaints against each state trooper over a four year period. The 49 state troopers whose internal affairs files we requested received the highest number of complaints during this period.
The troopers all received four or more complaints each, an average of at least one complaint per year. These troopers make up only about 2.23% of the department, but received nearly 25% of the complaints during this period.
Since we made the request, one of the troopers, who was already on leave from his job at the time, was convicted of indecent assault and battery and sentenced to one to two years in prison. State Police Colonel Timothy Alben confirmed at the time that the State Police were moving to fire Trooper Jason M. Willard over the conviction.
The state troopers whose internal affairs files we have requested are as follows:
Arisetty, Hari K Arone, John B Augusta, Mark D Baker, Joseph T Baptiste, Walter Boszko, Anthony T Breault, Paul C Brown, Christopher M Brown, Jonathan L Connell, John W Conway, Matthew B Croteau, Matthew E Duggan, John P Emmett, Kevin D English, Peter A Farrell, James F Flaherty, Scott A Freniere, Robert K Frigon, Richard H Gale, Daniel R Gentile, John J Grigg, Justin W Heywood, Daralyn A Holden, Nicholas J Isom, Michael A Johnson, Gerald D King, Daniel S LaRocco, Steven A LePage, John D Lynch, Dennis M Mansi, Carolyn M Martin, James W McCarthy, John P McSweeney, William Murphy, Brendan J O'Brien, Kevin M O'Neill, Kevin B Orlando, Nunzio Richards, Michael E Schipelliti, Paul Solomon, Shawn J Sternfield, Jason H Stuckey, Samantha L Tanguay, Craig M Tudryn, Theodore J Vrona, Steve E Webb-Johnson, Adrian C Willard, Jason M Yagodzinski, Jason C