The defendant members of the Lynn police department bring this appeal from a judgment in the Superior Court ordering the defendant treasurer of the city
On January 6, 1976, the plaintiff formally requested the treasurer of Lynn to disclose the "[b]ase salaries and overtime payments for the calendar year 1975 of any and all categories of employees of the City of Lynn, including employees of the School Department." The information the plaintiff sought can be found in the municipal employee payroll records, prepared and maintained by the treasurer. The treasurer also keeps records of the monies received by the city for work performed by municipal employees on off-duty work details or on special detail work. See G.L.c. 44, § 53C.
When the treasurer refused to comply with the request for access to these records, the plaintiff initiated this suit by filing a complaint in the Superior Court pursuant to G.L.c. 66, § 10. Thereafter, the plaintiff and the treasurer executed a stipulation of facts, and the plaintiff moved for judgment on the pleadings and the stipulation. See Mass. R. Civ. P. 12 (c), 365 Mass. 754 (1974). The stipulation stated that the treasurer refused to furnish the requested records to the plaintiff due to an outstanding preliminary injunction prohibiting him from disclosing the payroll records of members of the Lynn police department. Members of the Lynn police force, "on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all other police officer[s]" of Lynn, had obtained this injunction in their action against certain municipal officers of Lynn. The stipulation provided that on dissolution of such injunction the treasurer would comply with the plaintiff's demand for access to the city payroll records.
Since members of the Lynn police department claimed an interest relating to the subject matter of the action brought by the plaintiff, the trial judge joined the police as parties defendant in the instant case for the limited purpose of asserting any defense predicated on G.L.c. 214, § 1B (the privacy statute), or on any enforceable right of privacy.
1. Public records issue. For many years Massachusetts has, by statute, required public access to various records and documents in the possession of its public officials. The first such statute, passed in 1851, provided for the maintenance of and access to municipal, county and town records. St. 1851, c. 161. See also St. 1897, c. 439. The present form of the public records statute is found in G.L.c. 66, § 10, as appearing in St. 1973, c. 1050, § 3, and provides in part: "Every person having custody of any public records ... shall, at reasonable times and without unreasonable delay, permit them to be inspected and examined by any person, under his supervision, and shall furnish one copy thereof on payment of a reasonable fee. Every person for whom a search of public records is made shall, at the direction of the person having custody of such records, pay the actual expense of such search."
Prior to 1973, a record was not "public" unless an entry had been made pursuant to a requirement of law, Town Crier, Inc. v. Chief of Police of Weston, 361 Mass. 682, 687 (1972), or the record had been received or required to be received for filing, Dunn v. Assessors of Sterling, 361 Mass. 692, 694 (1972); Lord v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, 347 Mass. 608, 611 (1964). The 1973 amendment to the statutory definition of public records brings a great many more documents to public view. See Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington, 371 Mass. 59 (1976); Wolfe v. Massachusetts Port Auth., 366 Mass. 417, 421 n. 3 (1974). This broad definition of public records found in G.L.c. 4, § 7, Twenty-sixth, as amended through St. 1973, c. 1050, § 1, provides, in relevant part: "`Public records' shall mean all ... financial statements ... regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee
The intent to expand the disclosure of records in the 1973 amendments is clearly evident in the statute's express provision that the definition of public records, as amended, "shall not be construed to exempt any record which was [previously] a public record." St. 1973, c. 1050, § 6.
In light of these amendments to the Public Records Act favoring disclosure, we are not persuaded by the policemen's argument that municipal payroll records are not public records. They contend that the repeal in 1973 of G.L.c. 66, § 17B (h), which had specifically designated wage and salary records as public records, demonstrates a legislative intent to limit the scope of the statutory definition of "public record." An examination of the legislative history of the Public Records Act reveals the error in the policemen's interpretation of this statute. Section 17B created public access to certain records which did not meet the legal requirement test for public records. Town Crier, Inc. v. Chief of Police of Weston, supra at 688-689. However, the expansive definition of public records in the 1973 amendment to G.L.c. 4, § 7, eliminated the legal requirement test and added the example of "financial statements" to the various classes of public records. Thus, the need for § 17B (h) to liberalize a restrictive public records definition no longer remained.
The policemen further argue that to treat these records as public records would cause great inconvenience and expense to the city. Putting aside the question whether these parties have standing to raise this issue, we reject this argument. Not only has the treasurer already prepared the municipal payroll records in the desired format, but the plaintiff under G.L.c. 66, § 10 (a), is required to pay the actual
2. Right of privacy issue. Within this statutory scheme which favors disclosure, nine limited exemptions shield certain records, which would otherwise be public, from the light of public scrutiny. See G.L.c. 4, § 7, Twenty-sixth (a)-(i). In order to qualify the records for exemption, however, the custodian of these records must overcome the statutory presumption that the records sought are public.
We agree with the judge's ruling that there was no showing that disclosure of payroll records would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
Even if disclosure of municipal payroll records would bring the right of privacy into play, the paramount right of the public to know what its public servants are paid must prevail. But cf. Columbia Packing Co. v. United States Dept. of Agriculture, 417 F.Supp. 651, 655 (D. Mass. 1976), aff'd 563 F.2d 495 (1st Cir.1977) (privacy interest in nondisclosure of personal earnings of Federal meat inspectors
Nor does G.L.c. 214, § 1B, give any further support to the policemen's privacy argument.
Similarly, disclosure of these records would not infringe on the individual's constitutionally guarded zone of privacy. This constitutional right to privacy extends only to fundamental personal rights which are "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152 (1973), quoting from Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937). While the right to privacy is also protected by more specific constitutional guaranties, the police have not shown that disclosure is being used to deter the exercise of any particular
3. Other issues. The policemen raise several other issues, all of which lack merit. They contend that the likely publication of their salaries in the plaintiff's newspaper will interfere with the collective bargaining process between the city and the municipal employees. However, they fail to present any argument demonstrating specifically how disclosure would frustrate the collective bargaining process.
The policemen also claim that the judge's failure to regard as undisputed the facts alleged in their pleadings denied them due process of law. The pleadings, however, raised only questions of statutory interpretation and constitutional law in which fact-finding by the judge would not be required. Since we have attempted to review these questions of law, the policemen's due process rights have been protected.
Finally, the policemen complain that the judgment below lacks precision.
In Hastings & Sons Publishing Company the judgment is affirmed. In Briggs the order revoking the preliminary injunction is affirmed.
Since the 1977 amendment to G.L.c. 4, § 7, Twenty-sixth, the privacy exemption of the Massachusetts public records statute more closely tracks the language of the privacy exemption in the FOIA. Paragraph Twenty-six (c) now proscribes the disclosure of records "which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" (emphasis added). St. 1977, c. 691, § 1.