State Sen. Diana DiZoglio continues to press Gov. Charlie Baker for records to back up his claim he uses nondisclosure agreements with state employees only when a sexual harassment victim requests it. This is a personal issue for DiZoglio, who has cited her own alleged harassment case when she was an aide in the Massachusetts House eight years ago.
She says the governor’s claim that this type of secret agreement is rarely used is impossible to verify unless he coughs up the records. Baker’s office declines to turn over the details because it’s not subject to the state Public Records Law. In fact, that is correct; the law doesn’t require him to hand them over.
This issue surfaced again last week in an interview DiZoglio gave to the Boston Herald. She makes a good case, but her request is going nowhere without a change in the law. Charlie Baker isn’t one to bow to public pressure, especially when that pressure is coming mainly from a first-term state senator with a personal interest in the issue. Unless DiZoglio can bring a host of her fellow lawmakers on board to raise the stakes, the governor’s staff can just quietly deny the records request and move on.
DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, should step up and file legislation to bring the governor’s office under the Public Records Law. As it stands now, Massachusetts is one of very few states that exempt the governor’s office, judiciary and Legislature from most public records requests. That’s a large veil of secrecy we’ve advocated removing many times over the years. Chipping away at it one branch of government at a time — in this case, the governor’s office — could be the way to get the job done.
The drawback for lawmakers, of course, comes if they try to pull back the curtain on the governor’s records but refuse to vote to have the law apply to them. That would be criticized as hypocrisy, and rightfully so. But wouldn’t it be refreshing if one lawmaker stood up and said it’s time to change the law to make at least one of the three branches of government more transparent? Politicians talk a good line when they agree transparency in government is important. It’s time to make that a fact, not just words.