The City of Haverhill has been ordered to better respond to WHAV’s request for details of a fall police investigation of the city’s Department of Public Works.
State Supervisor of Records Rebecca S. Murray issued the ruling last week after the radio station appealed the amount of blacked out—or redacted—sections in an 83-page “Highway Department Investigation,” authored by Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro. The city claims it is excused from releasing certain information about employees, but Murray suggested the city may have gone too far.
“Despite the city’s response, it remains unclear which redacted portions the city is claiming constitute personnel information,” she said, later adding, “This clause does not protect all data relating to specifically named individuals.”
Mayor James J. Fiorentini ordered the investigation following receipt of two anonymous letters, alleging wrongdoing. DPW employees Steven Allen and Erik Frasca along with former city worker Kevin Moriarty were later arrested last August for drug possession.
Although the city claimed the right to censor employees’ names over privacy concerns, the Nov. 9 report specifically names Highway Superintendent Brian J. Zaniboni. It says he refused to cooperate with police. “…Zaniboni contacted me by phone to state that he had a discussion this weekend with the mayor and his attorney. He has decided after speaking with them not to cooperate with this investigation,” DeNaro wrote about a planned Oct. 1 interview.
In its appeal, WHAV argued, “The release of Mr. Zaniboni’s name has thwarted the protections expected under the exemption. What remains are the ‘allegations’ and these must be held up to public scrutiny.” The radio station further argued that listing Zaniboni’s name and not complaints against him “is as much a disservice to Mr. Zaniboni as it is a disservice to public interests.”
Murray ruled a balancing act is called for when “the requested information substantially outweighs the seriousness of any invasion of privacy.” She concludes the personnel discussion by saying, “The public has a recognized interest in knowing whether public servants are carrying out their duties in a law-abiding and efficient manner.”
Haverhill officials also claim they do not have to release publicly the details of a so-called “deliberative process.” Murray responded the city has not proven the report contains legal or policy matters. WHAV noted, approximately 90 percent of DeNaro’s conclusions and recommendations are blacked out.