SPR Bulletin 01-07

TO: Public Records Custodians
SUBJECT: Minutes of Meetings
EXPIRATION DATE: Until superseded
PURPOSE: This bulletin provides information and requirements for the management and provision of meeting minutes kept pursuant to the Open Meetings Law and the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

One of the fundamental principles of a democracy is to maintain the transparency of governmental actions. To this end, the Legislature enacted the Open Meeting Law and the Massachusetts Public Records Law, to ensure that the workings of the government are open and accessible to the taxpayers and public at large. It would be contrary to the intent of the Open Meeting Law, the Public Records Law and the foundations of a democratic system to place impediments on citizen access to minutes of open meetings.

1. Governmental bodies are required to keep accurate written minutes of all of their meetings. G. L. c. 66, § 5A.

2. It is consistent with the underlying policy behind both the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Law that these minutes must be made readily accessible to the public. See G. L. c. 30A, § 22(c); G. L. c. 66, § 10(a).

3. While a records custodian may assess a fee for the provision of public records, the fee charged should not serve as a deterrent for the requestor to access public records. See Globe Newspaper Co. v. Boston Retirement Bd., 388 Mass. 427, 436 (1983).

4. It is vital that a complete, accurate, and durable record be created of public meetings. Please be advised that minutes of meetings must be maintained in a manner that ensures permanent retention of the records.  If a records custodian requires retention assistance, the Records Management Unit provides records management services and outreach to all state agencies and municipalities to help them meet state record-keeping standards and requirements.

1. Public records that are of great interest to a large number of people must be readily available within the office of the records custodian.  These records include minutes of local board meetings, town meeting documents, warrants, street lists, municipal financial documents, etc.

2. As required by the Open Meeting Law, minutes of meetings should be reviewed regularly and be accessible by the public without delay.  This is especially the case when dealing with executive session minutes.  Once the reason for calling the executive session has ended, those minutes must be reviewed and made available to the public.  It would be improper for a records custodian to pass along the costs associated with reviewing minutes to a records requestor when the records custodian has a pre-existing statutory duty to perform this review.  See G. L. c. 30A, § 22(c).

3. Minutes of meetings should be provided without delay at a minimum cost, if any.  This Office encourages records custodians to waive fees associated with the provision of meeting minutes given that disclosure is incontrovertibly in the public interest.  

Questions regarding this Bulletin or the provision of meeting minutes should be directed to:

Supervisor of Records
Public Records Division
1 Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
Phone 617-727-2832
Fax 617-727-5914
Email pre@sec.state.ma.us

Questions regarding records retention should be directed to the:

Records Management Unit
Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816
Fax 617-288-8429
Email recman@sec.state.ma.us