What's The Public's Right-To-Know In Lt. Gov. Crash?

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jan. 6, 2012

BOSTON — Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray continues to resist calls to release his cell phone records from the days surrounding his Nov. 2 car crash. It’s his latest effort to limit access to information about the unusual high-speed, pre-dawn crash — and a watchdog group says it could be hard to force more information out.

Murray initially said he was going the speed limit and wearing his seat belt when his car hit a patch of black ice. On Jan. 3, after police released black box computer data showing the car was going 108 mph, Murray said he "accepted" the police analysis that he fell asleep at the wheel with no seat belt on.
But independent analysts have questioned even the latest scenario, while Murray is rebuffing requests for his phone records.
Pam Wilmot of Common Cause, a government-transparency watchdog group, said it could be tough to force those records into the light.
“This is a state-issued cell phone. I think there’s a general expectation throughout government if government’s paying for it the public has a right for it. However, the governor’s office is not covered by the public records law,” she said. And that includes the lieutenant governor's office, too.
The Massachusetts public records law gives the public the right to view and obtain government records. But, as Wilmot noted, there are exceptions — including certain types of information, such as information that’s part of an ongoing investigation. She said that could have protected the black box data, which the police sat on for two months, even though they did eventually comply with media requests to turn it over.

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