The Mass Dump
Lights Out Mass
Pulling Back the Curtain on Government Secrecy (with Todd Wallack)

Pulling Back the Curtain on Government Secrecy (with Todd Wallack)

Veteran investigative journalist discusses his legal battles to expose information about state officials, police, and the legal system
Black-and-white photo showing the inside of a courtroom. The photo was taken on July 23, 1963 and depicts "Judge Adlow presiding over a session in Boston Municipal Courtroom where new police officers are observing," according to Digital Commonwealth.
Photo Credit: Digital Commonwealth

Fighting public records [requests] and refusing to give information that is clearly public is starting to cost real money in tax dollars to everybody. And that’s money that could presumably be used for other government services or much more valuable things. And I know as a journalist who’s been involved in filing public records lawsuits, I don’t want to sue agencies. … I want to work with government agencies to get information that should be public and help provide that information more quickly to our audience and in a way that’s easier for the government agency. So I hope that government agencies get the message that this is really costly. — Todd Wallack

Todd Wallack, an investigative journalist with more than two decades of experience in the media, started out in a small Ohio newsroom, later rose to the famed Spotlight team at The Boston Globe, and then moved to WBUR. Wallack’s name is synonymous with public records reporting in Massachusetts. His work has led to numerous precedent-setting lawsuits against government agencies that tried to keep information — like the names of police officers arrested for drunk driving — from the public.

For the ninth episode of Lights Out Mass, we nerd out with Wallack about his never-ending quest to reveal stories that officials would prefer to keep hidden, the confusing Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law that has allowed police and prosecutors to conceal information about police misconduct and data about the legal system, why striking the right balance between privacy and transparency often means disclosure, and the link between the Spotlight team and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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  • You can follow Todd Wallack on Twitter and read his work at WBUR

  • Wallack’s recent talk to the New England First Amendment Coalition about how to access court records online in Massachusetts is here

  • Wallack’s recent WBUR story about Governor Maura Healey refusing to release sexual harassment complaints and employee settlement agreements is here

  • Wallack’s recent WBUR story (written with Ally Jarmanning) about cities, towns, and state agencies spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting public records requests in court is here

  • Wallack’s 2015 Boston Globe story about the Massachusetts State Police trying to charge $2.7 million for records about breathalyzers is here

  • The lawsuits discussed on the podcast include The Boston Globe’s suits for settlement agreements with state employees and reports about police officers who were arrested for drunk driving and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office’s suit for data about criminal cases; all of these suits originated with public records requests made by Wallack

This podcast is hosted by Andrew Quemere and Jeff Raymond:

Our theme music is “Sun Bleach” by Lifeformed. More music available at Bandcamp.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant!

Denis Reynoso’s grave on September 5, 2014 — one year after a Lynn police officer shot him to death. (Photo by Andrew Quemere)

Saturday was Veterans Day. Check out NECN’s documentary about Denis Reynoso, who survived the Iraq war only to be killed in this country. A Lynn police officer shot Reynoso in his apartment in front of his five-year-old son in September 2013. He was a veteran in crisis who needed help — not bullets. We shouldn’t let his story be forgotten.

Also check out this recent story from The Mass Dump about a lawsuit that could have a huge impact on what records related to police shootings and police misconduct that the public is allowed to see:

That’s all for now!

The Mass Dump
Lights Out Mass
A podcast about government transparency — or the lack thereof — in Massachusetts. Hosted by Andrew Quemere and Jeff Raymond.