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Newspaper's Sunshine Week requests receive gloomy response

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  1. Freedom of Information
Two records requests that The (Brockton, Mass.) Enterprise submitted to its city hall in honor of Sunshine Week didn’t turn…

Two records requests that The (Brockton, Mass.) Enterprise submitted to its city hall in honor of Sunshine Week didn’t turn up quite as bright as the paper had hoped.

City hall officials didn’t respond within the state law-mandated time frame of 10 days, and when they did finally turn over the information, some of it was almost entirely redacted.

On Feb. 15, the newspaper asked the mayor’s office for a list of city employees who carry city-issued cell phones, and on Feb. 20, it sought the last three months of cell phone bill records of the city’s highest-paid employee, Brockton School Superintendent Basan Nembirkow.

The mayor’s office provided the list of city employees on March 3, after The Enterprise submitted a follow-up request after its first request was initially ignored. The newspaper didn’t receive the cell phone bills until March 12 – with every call made and received by the superintendent either redacted or deleted.

Steve Damish, managing editor of The Enterprise, said recognizing Sunshine Week by requesting public documents helps newspapers come together since papers, for the most part, operate independently of one another.

“It allows newspapers to circle the wagon,” Damish said. “It reminds each of us who we work for you, who we represent, who we serve and serve the average person out there who might not have a voice without us.”

Damish said the paper plans to follow up with the redacted cell phone bill records, first by seeking out the mayor’s office informally but he said they would appeal to the state if need be.