Transparency Watch

Mass. newspaper reporter catches city employees burning public records

A reporter from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass. caught city employees burning reams of public records, all without approval from the state.

Old purchase orders, payroll records and utility bills, along with a handful of other documents, went up in smoke. The city’s public works commissioner “emphasized that all of the records burned in recent weeks were old and useless,” according to the paper.

The revelation has caused all kinds of problems for city officials, who said they “jumped the gun.”

It gets even worse:

"Not only were the DPW records disposed of without permission, the manner in which they were destroyed may have been illegal as well, according to state Department of Environmental Protection regulations. The DEP’s waste ban says recyclable paper cannot be burned or sent to a landfill. Also, the state does not allow open burning after 4 p.m."

Two days later the state approved the city’s request to destroy the files. Officials said the early burning wasn’t intentional and that all of the documents were eligible for destruction.

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