Governor Maura Healey’s daily schedules indicate she may be getting closer to naming the next head of the embattled MBTA.
According to a copy of her February calendar obtained by the Globe, Healey attended a Feb. 16 meeting about the search for a permanent general manager of the MBTA. On Feb. 27, she interviewed a candidate for the position.
In December, she proclaimed that she would hire a new GM in “weeks, and not several months.”
The revelation is part of a number of documents the Globe obtained through a public records request covering Healey’s second month in office. Yet, as it did previously, Healey’s office again denied the bulk of a Globe request for many other basic records related to her administration.
The Globe requested correspondences between Healey and legislative leaders, the governor’s daily calendar, a log of her travel, and a log of calls she made or received on her cellphone or direct office line for February.
Healey’s office withheld access to her e-mails and phone call logs, saying that releasing the documents “would interfere with the governor’s necessary, regular activities and responsibilities and, as a consequence, unreasonably hinder the governor in effectively performing her duties.”
Her office made the same explanation last month when it denied the Globe records related to the governor’s January business.
Massachusetts is one of only two states in the country — Michigan being the other — where the governor claims a blanket exemption from the public records law. And it is the only state where the Legislature, judiciary, or governor’s office all claim to be completely exempt. Before she took office, Healey said publicly she would not claim an exemption from the state’s public records law, though she shortly thereafter walked back her statement. Rather, she said her office would evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis, while still promising to bring a new level of transparency to the office.
Healey’s office, which released the records two days past the 10-day period required by state law, did release copies of her daily calendar, but redacted details from more than a dozen entries, including what appear to be meeting locations that happened weeks ago. It cited a public records exemption related to public safety that is typically applied to records such as blueprints, schematic drawings, or security measures that would jeopardize public safety or cyber security.
Among the entries where the location appeared to be redacted were daily calls, private events, and the interview with the general manager candidate, whose name was not disclosed on Healey’s calendar.
In the two-plus months since Healey took office, MBTA service has continued to deteriorate, leading some in the transit community to question why she has yet to hire a new leader for the agency or why she hasn’t yet replaced a single member of its board. The calendar entry gives some insight into the status of the hire for the first time.
In December, before she was sworn in, Healey announced she had retained an executive search firm to find the MBTA’s next permanent general manager. She has been largely quiet on the matter since then.
Beyond insight in the hiring of a T general manager, the documents provided to the Globe offer a wider window into some of Healey’s most formative weeks as governor. On Feb. 16, for example, she met with an unnamed candidate for state police colonel. Hours later, she was in a 90-minute meeting titled “final budget decisions.”
Throughout the month at the State House, she met with leaders including Morning Star Baptist Church Bishop John Borders; Doug Howgate, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation; Marty Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts; Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd; and state Treasurer Deb Goldberg.
She also met with former governor Michael Dukakis, a longtime advocate of public transportation, at his Brookline home. His address was not redacted.
Many of the events on Healey’s schedule were related to her mid-month trip to Washington, D.C., where she attended the National Governors Association’s winter meeting. There, she met with the state’s congressional delegation, attended a luncheon hosted by the French ambassador, and met with various officials such as Biden infrastructure adviser Mitch Landrieu, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
She attended a dinner at the White House with President Biden and first lady Jill Biden. According to her schedule, she flew home on a JetBlue flight.
Healey has defended her approach on public records requests, saying in an appearance on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” last week that she intends to be “the most transparent governor that this state has ever seen when it comes to documents.”
“I stand by what I said, that I was not going to take a position that Lambert applies to everything. I’m really trying to be consistent about that,” Healey said, referring to a court case used by governors as a blanket justification for not complying with public records laws. She added that her administration is committed to being “as transparent as possible.”
“We may not be able to produce everything, but that’s certainly going to be the default.”
In a letter responding to the Globe’s request for February records and denying the majority of that request, the governor’s records officer, Jesse Boodoo, reiterated that Healey intends to “provide more transparency to the governor’s office than ever before.”
“Public records requests will be evaluated based on the public records law, established exemptions, and any unique obligations of the governor’s office,” Boodoo wrote.
The Globe received a nearly verbatim response to an identical request made for the governor’s January records. The newspaper appealed a decision by the governor’s office to deny access to call logs and e-mails, but the state decided to close the case.
In her letter, the state’s supervisor of records, Manza Arthur, referenced a 1997 Supreme Judicial Court decision, known as Lambert v. Executive Director of the Judicial Nominating Council, that found that the public records law did not expressly name the governor, the Legislature, or the judiciary in the law.
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.