By STEPHEN BRAUN
WASHINGTON (AP) mdash; Massachusetts will open hundreds of boxes of documents from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's term as governor that have long been locked away from public viewing, the state said Tuesday. The move comes after disclosures that Romney had authorized the purging of emails and other closely-held electronic records from his administration.
The decision by the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth office will ultimately make available more than 460 boxes of documents stored since 2006 in the state archives in south Boston. They were closed to public inspection because of legal uncertainty over the impact of a court ruling that said Massachusetts governor's records were not subject to disclosure.
Romney's presidential campaign aides recently cited that decision to justify the deletion of files from Massachusetts email servers at the end of his governor's term in 2007. Romney also allowed aides to buy and remove their government hard drives and authorized the replacement of leased computers in his executive offices.
A commonwealth spokesman, Brian McNiff, said agency officials decided last week to open up the records after a legal review that began last spring, as media and political groups have been pressing for access to the records.
"The decision was made that all of Gov. Romney's records would be made available," McNiff said.
McNiff said that the boxes of documents could only be viewed five boxes at a time, and any request to review the new material would require what he described as a short delay while the archives reviewed the files and censored confidential material.
The documents will be reviewed in light of the 1997 Massachusetts high court ruling that exempted governor's records from state public disclosure laws. McNiff said that Romney's representatives would not be consulted during the redaction process. "They're not involved," he said.
A Romney campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, noted that Romney had sent the materials to the state archives with the intent of making them available to the public.
An Associated Press examination of much of the available Romney archives holdings earlier this year suggested the material available then was far from comprehensive. More than 75 cartons reviewed by the AP included staff and legislative documents but no internal records written to or from Romney himself mdash; except for ceremonial bill-signing and official letters.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)