The emails that derailed state Sen. Marian Walsh's bid for a high-paying state authority job saw the light of day only because of the Massachusetts Public Records Law. It was one of those rare instances where transparency trumped politics as usual, where a law designed to reveal the inner workings of government actually worked.
The state's Public Records Law is generally weak and ineffective. Vast swaths of state government are exempt from the law and many documents are shielded from its reach by a growing list of legislatively approved exceptions. Many government officials ignore the law and others subvert it by improperly withholding documents or charging excessive fees to produce information. Which is why the Walsh case is so refreshing.
A State House reporter filed a public records request on March 20 for emails and other documents related to the senator's controversial appointment. Seven days later he received information contradicting the public statements of Walsh, the Patrick administration, and the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority, where Walsh was slated to become assistant executive director.