By Colman M. Herman
Last July, at a time when he was in the midst of his heated campaign for governor, Massachusetts State Treasurer Steven Grossman appears to have seriously violated the state’s Public Records Law. Responding to a public records request from me, Grossman claimed that he had no state credit card bills from 2013 to present when, as I later found out, he actually did.
Not satisfied with Grossman’s response to my July request, I asked him again in December for all his credit card statements for the same time period. Representatives for Grossman, who by then had lost his bid for the corner office, continued to assert that none existed.
Skeptical, I continued to ask. Only after a fifth request did Grossman come clean and turn over the credit card statements — documents that contained not only charges incurred by Grossman, but by seven other treasury employees as well.
When I asked him why the public records request had to be made so many times before he released the credit card statements, Grossman initially said, “I don’t know that I can answer your question. I prefer to move forward, not backwards.”
But when pressed, Grossman seemed to blame his treasury lawyer. “Look, our general counsel here reviewed what we gave you and felt that it was an adequate response to your request,” he said. The records provided by Grossman in July, however, were primarily fuel and E-ZPass transponder documents, not credit card statements.
The statements finally produced by Grossman last December included a $1,717 charge at the Island Inn on Martha’s Vineyard, a $771 charge at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, and a $513 charge at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. I have since requested more information from Grossman about these and other charges, and am awaiting the information.
Mary Connaughton, who leads government transparency initiatives at the Pioneer Institute, questioned Grossman’s responses to my requests. “Government transparency isn’t just a matter of convenience,” Connaughton said. “It’s always important but especially just before an election, when people are exercising their essential duty as citizens. For the most part, Treasurer Grossman made strides in advancing transparency during his tenure. That makes his lack of disclosure here not only troubling but puzzling.”
Herman is a freelance writer and reporter living in Boston.