UPDATE: My Pal Jack on Left in Lowell has a difefrent view and seems to agree with the SUN. Check it out
The Sun’s story about a Freedom of Information request that they are claiming victory on against the LHA seems to have left out some key information about that ruling.
To me after reading the formal ruling (attached) it is opens to interpretation if the LHA has to provide a list or if they can clarify their reasons for the exemption especially if such a list doesn’t already exist.
The story states at the beginning:
LOWELL — The Secretary of State’s Public Records Division has determined the Lowell Housing Authority did not comply with the state’s public-records law when it denied The Sun’s request for a list of property owners with multiple Section 8 voucher tenants.
In an Aug. 8 letter to LHA Assistant Executive Director Mary Ann Maciejewski, the state’s supervisor of records, Shawn Williams, wrote that any responsive record identifying property owners with multiple Section 8 tenants is public record and must be provided to The Sun.
As of early April, there were nearly 1,250 tenants in the city with Section 8 housing vouchers from the LHA.
I have attached a full and complete copy of the response but the way I read it is if the LHA has valid reason to not supply this list or doesn’t have an existing list, then none has to be released, here’s what I mean (BOLD MINE):
The Public Record s Law strongly favors disclosure by creating a presumption that all governmental records are public records.
While in your May 7, 20 12 response you indicate that “several exemptions’ would permit the Authority to deny Mr. Moran’s reqest. You cite but one, raising concerns that release of tenant information “in the newspaper” could ” potentially create an unwarranted invasion o f privacy.” G. L. e. 4, ~ 7 (26) (c).
Mr. Moran requested a list of the names of property owners with “multiple Section 8 voucher tenants.” By definition, it would be difficult at best to make the connection between an individual property owner and specific tenants, as such property owner must serve “multiple” tenants.
GN: This seems to indicate to me pretty clearly that if they site several reasons than it could be upheld.
The best and biggest reason that the Sun may NOT be successful is this:
Create a record SPRI2/224
The duty to comply with requests for information extends only to those records that exist and are in the custody of the custodian of records at the time of the request. There is no obligation to create a record in response to a request for public records
In your response, you did not indicate whether such a “list” exists as requested by Mr. Moran.
GN: So while the LHA may have a list of addresses and locations or banks they send monthly checks to, it may be by location or section of the city and not necessarily by individual owner. Thus exempting them from having to provide one.
Let’s be clear the SUN is on a hunt to see what PRIVATE Business Owners are receiving public dollars and who knows who and if the individual is a friend of the LHA Executive Director, Board Members, Elected City Officials, The Manager or LHA workers.
Much like their so far unsuccessful search for wrongdoing regarding the renovations and illegal asbestos this is no more than a witch hunt under the guise of advocating for the taxpayer.
Maybe the SUN would prefer the private business owners who pay property taxes sell their buildings at market rate to LHA and decrease the amount of taxes coming into the city. Maybe the SUN wants to embarrass those Owners who don’t advertise rentals units with them by publicly showing they rent to section 8 residents.
Maybe there are people on section 8 or who live in buildings that receive section 8 who the SUN dislikes and wants to embarrass by showing that owner Joe Smith receives Section 8 assistance for his buildings on Smith, 9th, Broadway and South St. and make people think all tenants in that building receive section 8 when in fact that isn’t always correct.
The story in today’s paper didn’t explain what the SUN wanted the information for and what the story is they want to do..I doubt they will tell us.
For the newspaper to be going after private landlords for political purposes isn’t doing these landlords, LHA or CTI and the people they are assisting any good.