Originally posted on Friday at 8:55 p.m. Updated on Monday, Feb. 12 at 4:20 p.m.
FRAMINGHAM – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts today, February 9, ruled that information about the dozen individuals not selected by the Framingham Mayor to serve on the city’s first-ever Licensing Commission must be released to the public.
Former mayoral candidate Dhruba Sen appealed a decision by the City of Framingham and Mayor Yvonne Spicer not to release the names and resumes of all the applicants for the Framingham License Commission.
There were 17 applicants, and the Mayor selected five individuals, after they went before a screening committee.
Sen requested “names and resumes of all applicants that applied, names and resumes of all members of the screening committee which screened the applicants and selected the five candidates, and the criteria used to select the five candidates.”
Both Sen and Source were denied the information by the Mayor and the City of Framingham.
The City provided some records to Sen, Framingham Source, and the Framingham City Council but withheld others under exemption (c) of the state’s Public
Records Law. G. L. c. 4, § 7(26)(c).
That excemption “permits the withholding of: personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The resumes of the five individuals, who were submitted for the Commission, and who were all approved by the City Council, were released to the City Council, but the names of the other 12 applicants were not released to anyone, including the City Council.
Sen appealed the decision to the supervisor of records in the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office, under the freedom of information act (FOIA) and the state’s public records law.
That office issued a ruling, dated today, February 9 to the City of Framingham and Sen.
The 4-page ruling states “The City has not met its burden to show why certain information within the resumes of the remaining twelve applicants, such as qualifications, educational and professional training and experience, cannot be provided in order to shed light on the applicant pool while also protecting
privacy interests. Any non-exempt, segregable portion of a public record is subject to mandatory disclosure.”
The ruling, in Source’s interpretation means, that the City must release information on the dozen applicants who were not chosen to be on the Commission, but may be able to still withhold their names.
The ruling also states “the City is ordered to provide Mr. Sen with records redacted in a manner consistent with this order, the Public Records Law and its Regulations within ten business days. A copy of any such response must be provided to this office.”
“During my Mayoral campaign I had maintained that I consider transparency in governance is my #1 issue. I didn’t like the hush hush approach to these appointments. I know it is very easy to talk the talk and not walk the walk when it comes to transparency in governance. But I take it very seriously,” said Sen to Source.
“I am glad that the Supervisor of Records took the decision that she took and that obviated my going to the superior court as provided by the MA FOIA law. I hope that the Mayor’s Office from now on will accede to citizen’s request for information and try to be truly transparent in its operations,”said Sen.
The individuals on the 5-member Framingham License Commission are volunteers, and are not paid.
The ruling does speak about employment cases, and cites several employment rulings, as well.
Sen said he plans to seek clarification from the Secretary of State’s office on its ruling, specifically if even more information, including the names of the dozen individuals, can be released since the positions appointed by the Mayor are volunteer and unpaid.
The ruling also states “There is a strong public interest in monitoring public expenditures and public employees have a diminished expectation of privacy with respect to public employment matters. … Further, the public has an interest in knowing whether public employees are “carrying out their duties in an efficient and law-abiding marmer.” … As a result, certain information that is considered personal in the ordinary sense of the word may be considered part of a public record if relating to an individual’s official responsibilities. …”
Sen said the City and the Mayor have 10 days to compile with the Commonwealth’s ruling.
“If they don’t comply, I will sue them, and the law says I will have to be reimbursed ALL legal expenses,” he added.
Framingham Source contacted the Mayor’s office via email to see if the City will comply with the state’s ruling.
A response was received Monday at 4:15 p.m. from the mayor’s spokesperson.
“We intent (sic) to comply with the Supervisor of Record’s (sic) ruling regarding Dhruba Sen’s appeal for copies of the Board of Licensing (sic) applicant’s (sic) resumes. The decision allows the City to provide information on the education and experience for applicants not selected while maintaining their privacy interest. On the whole this clarification of exemption (c) helps us have a transparent process while encouraging applicants for Framingham’s multiple-member bodies who might otherwise be reluctant to apply if their names were disclosed prior to presentation to the City Council for approval,” said Mayor Spicer in a written statement.
The Mayor has maintained she does not have to release the names of applicants for volunteer boards and commissions, and the City Solictor and his firm have agreed with that view.
“The Charter does not require the Mayor to provide the names of all applicants considered for a particular appointment and does not expressly permit the Subcommittee on Appointments to investigate any applicants other than the nominess submitted to the Council by the Mayor,” the Mayor wrote in a memo to the Framingham City Council subcomittee on appointments, when it requested a list of all 17 applicants who applied.
My concern in divulging all applicants, which will include those that are not selected, may deter people from applying to boards and commissions and result in a depleted application pool,” wrote the Mayor to the City Council subcommittee. “For obvious reasons, potential applicants may refrain from applying if they face
a risk that their names may be publicly disclosed to their current employers even if they are not even nominated by the Mayor for appointment.”
The Mayor added in her memo to the City Council subcommittee “Our city Solicitor has advised that the process we have followed with the Licensing Commission
appointments satisfies all legal requirements and complies with the Framingham Home Rule Charter requirements. A repeat of the interview process at the council level is not necessary; as acouncil your responsibility is to review the nominees to assure that the candidates are qualified to do the work of the License Commission.”