Committed to Maximum Transparency

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The above words are Governor Deval Patrick’s description of his administration. The practice has proven to be quite different (and I’m not the only one who thinks this.).

In May, I asked the state’s Human Resource Department (HRD) for an update of an old layoff report that was used in 2004. They said no one knew what it was. I sent them an old copy, then they said it was a one-time report. I showed them it was a weekly report. They said it was discontinued. I asked for whatever they were using to track layoff counts now, then the conversation stopped.

Next, I made an open records request, dated June 16, 2009. HRD did not respond, in violation of the Open Records statute.

I made another request, dated August 4, 2009, but this time I cc:ed the Sec’y of State and Governor’s Legal Office and sent it with a return receipt.

That got their attention. HRD responded with a note stating it would cost $130 to produce the information. Now what does this imply? That the State’s Human Resources Department does not have a count of layoffs on hand? Or that they hope I go away? I didn’t and I sent a check.

The check even got cashed on August 13th, but no sign of the data. Then this exchange occurred:

The AP requested updated data [on layoffs] throughout the past year, but its most recent inquiries were answered only Tuesday after the issue was raised directly with Patrick on Friday.

“Give him the number,” the governor instructed his aides. As one used a BlackBerry to type a message to Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez, an exasperated Patrick said, “Jay is in the next room. Why don’t you just get him?”

Turns out that the Associated Press had been asking for the very same data over the same period.

Literally minutes after this went out on the wire, my phone lights up — it’s HRD asking how they can email the data to me.

So, here’s the data itself. (More to say on this later). Judge for yourself — $130 worth of work? Or 5 months of bureaucratic obfuscation.