Public Records Law
Effective January 1, 2017, the Massachusetts Public Records Law, General Law Chapter 66 and Chapter 4, Section 7(26) provides that a municipality must, within 10 business days (Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays), respond to a request for records by providing access to or a copy of such records, or explaining any delay or denial.
Each municipality is required to designate 1 or more Records Access Officer (RAO). The RAO has a duty to:
- Coordinate the agency’s or municipality’s response to requests for access to public records;
- Assist individuals seeking public records in identifying the records requested;
- Assist the custodian of records in preserving public records; and
- Prepare guidelines that enable requestors to make informed requests.
Please submit public records requests to the Primary RAO Elizabeth Paine, who can either respond directly or forward your request to the appropriate departments in Town Hall for response, and ensure that your request is responded to quickly and appropriately.
Business Hours: Provincetown Town Hall is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Friday from 8:00 am to 12 noon.
Making A Public Records Request
Please submit your public record request using our online portal. Navigate from any town webpage by clicking the yellow dot which says ONLINE SERVICES (the dot is either on the left or at the bottom of this page depending on your device). Public record requests are under the Town Clerk link.
Any person may make a public records request:
- In person at the town Clerk’s Office, Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial Street;
- By first class mail addressed to the RAO at the RAO’s business address set forth above;
- By facsimile addressed to the RAO at the business facsimile number set forth above; or
- By e-mail addressed to the RAO at the e-mail address link set forth above.
Requests Encouraged to be in Writing. Although not required, it is strongly encouraged that public records requests be in writing to ensure the most efficient and accurate response. All written public records requests, including via email and facsimile, shall be addressed/directed to an RAO, and contain the requester’s name and contact information, so that the RAO is able to provide the required response.
Contact Information. Individuals making in-person requests will not be requested or required to give their names or contact information. For in-person requests that require additional time for a comprehensive response, requesters will be advised to check in periodically with the RAO or department from which records are sought, or requesters may voluntarily provide contact information. Voluntary Public Records Request Forms shall be available in all municipal offices.
Specificity of Requests. To facilitate timely responses to public records requests, requests should be as specific as possible, detailing, if known, records custodian(s), and date and subject matter parameters. The more specific the request, the better able the Town will be to respond, as broad requests often require more extensive staff efforts to locate, review and copy all possibly responsive records.
Receipt of Requests. Written requests received during normal business hours, as defined in paragraph 1, above, will be considered received on that date. Written requests sent via email or facsimile after normal business hours shall not be considered received until the following business day. Business days shall not include Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
Purpose of Request. The RAO will not ask a requester to identify the purpose of the request, but may ask for more information to assist the requester to make an appropriate request and/or to enable the RAO to respond more efficiently.
A has been created for your use, but you may also submit your request via the online portal, writing via email or letter to: Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657.
Responses to Public Records Requests
Fees. If fees will be assessed, a written estimate of the same will be provided to the Requester. Permissible charges include, but are not limited to:
- five cents ($0.05) per page of black and white printouts or copies;
- actual cost for storage devices or materials such as CDs or thumb/flash drives;
- actual cost for duplication of records not susceptible to ordinary means of reproduction, such as color copies and large format plans;
- postage fees (where applicable; see paragraph 15, above); and
- fees for employee time required to satisfy a public records request (A fee may be charged for employee time necessary to identify, locate, and compile the records requested. A fee may also be charged for employee time necessary to review, and, as applicable, segregate and/or redact information exempt from public disclosure. The hourly rate for such fees shall be the hourly rate of the lowest paid employee capable of performing the task, provided, however, that this hourly rate shall not exceed twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per hour, unless the Town has obtained the approval of the State Supervisor of Public Records to charge a higher hourly rate. Depending upon the nature of the request, different rates may be charged for different types of work (i.e., a different hourly rate for search time and a different hourly rate for segregation/redaction time).
No copying fee will be charged for records provided in electronic form.
Response if Longer than 10 Days or Denial in Whole or in Part. If a full response, including provision of records, cannot be made within 10 business days of receipt of the request, the RAO or designee will respond to the requester in writing: explaining the anticipated time frame for complete response; identifying any records that the Town does not have in its custody; identifying records which the Town does not expect will be provided, or that will be redacted, specifying the relevant exemption and its application to the requested record or portion thereof; providing a good faith fee estimate; and including a statement of appeal rights.
Clarification of Request. Depending upon the scope of the request, the requester may be asked to clarify the request, provide more specific detail, and/or agree to a voluntary extension of time for the Town to respond fully to the request.
Time for Response. Typically, a complete response will be provided within 25 business days of receipt of the requests. If, due to the scope of the request, the need for redactions, or other complications, the Town is concerned that it will not be able to provide a complete response within that time frame, the Town may ask the requester for an extension of time to comply or petition the Supervisor of Public Records for additional time.
Publicly Available Records. The Town maintains a searchable website at [insert website address] where certain public records are available for inspection, downloading or printing. If a request seeks documents publicly available on the Town’s website, the requester will be directed to the website in satisfaction of the request, unless the requester does not have the ability to receive or access the records in a usable electronic form..
Electronic Records Delivery Preference. To the extent feasible, the RAO or designee will provide public records in response to a request by electronic means unless the record is not available electronically or the requester does not have the ability to receive or access the records electronically. To the extent available and feasible, the RAO will provide an electronic record in the requester’s preferred format.
Request for Records to be Mailed. Should a requester seek to have responsive records provided by mail, the requester will be charged the actual cost of postage, using the least expensive form of mailing possible, unless the requester requests, and agrees to pay for, an expedited form of mailing and such fees are paid in advance.
Creation of Records. The Town is only required to provide records that are in existence at the time of a request and is not required to create a new record to accommodate a specific request.
Answering Questions. The Town is not required to answer questions in response to a public records request.
Supplementing Responses. The Town is not required to supplement its response to a previous public records request in the event that responsive records are created in the future.
Unique Right of Access. Pursuant to the provisions of 950 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 32.06(1)(g) , if a requester or requester’s representative (such as an attorney), has "a unique right of access by statutory, regulatory, judicial or other applicable means", a request for records will not be considered a G.L. c.66, §10 public records request.
Categories of Records
The Contact Information for a Public Record (PDF) describes with specificity different categories of records maintained by the various Provincetown departments. You may also refer to the Municipal Records Retention Schedule (PDF), issued by the Supervisor of Public Records, and found at, which schedule identifies various categories of records maintained by municipal departments and so-called "records in common."
Exemptions/Redaction/Withholding. Some public records, or portions of records, may not be provided in response to a public records request because the Town has determined such records to be exempt from disclosure pursuant to the provisions of General Law Chapter 4 Section 7(26), the attorney-client privilege, or other applicable exemptions or common law privileges (PDF). For more information about exemptions to the Public Records Law, see the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s, "A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law," January 2017 edition (PDF).
If a requester wishes to assert a claim that they have been denied access to public records, they may appeal the RAO’s determination to the Supervisor of Records pursuant to 950 CMR 32.08(1). The Supervisor shall make a final determination on the appeal within ten (10) business days of receipt.
If the requester is dissatisfied with the determination of the Supervisor of Records, the requester may appeal to Superior Court. Alternatively, a requester may bypass the Supervisor and go directly to Superior Court.
Record Access Officers
Listed below are the Record Access Officers for the Town of Provincetown, also known as RAO:
Town Clerk- Elizabeth Paine
260 Commercial Street
Provincetown, MA 02657
Email Elizabeth Paine