« PreviousContinue »
The board shall have the same powers relative to the state poor who are inmates of the institutions under its supervision and to their property as are vested in towns and overseers of the poor relative to paupers supported and relieved by towns.
Section 37 of chapter 81 provides that:
Upon the death of a pauper who at his decease is actually chargeable to a place within this commonwealth, the overseers of the poor thereof may take possession of all his real and personal property.
These provisions obviously give the State Board of Insanity power to take the property of such deceased patients as have been supported as State charges, for the purpose of reimbursing the Commonwealth for the sums expended for their support. The money so obtained should be covered into the treasury of the Commonwealth.
7. The treasurers of the several institutions mentioned also have savings bank books which belonged to patients now deceased, who were supported during commitment as State charges, and these deposits have been unclaimed for more than five years. Can the State recover from these deposits the charges for the support of these patients; or, if these unclaimed deposits should be paid to the State Treasurer, under the provisions of section 55, chapter 113 of the Revised Laws, is there any method by which the hospitals can be reimbursed for the support of said patients?
The Board has the same right to receive the money on deposit in a savings bank and apply the same to the indebtedness of the patient to the Commonwealth for his support as it has to take and apply the money on hand with the treasurers of the institutions under the provisions quoted in the preceding answer. R. L., c. 113, § 55, does not apply to any deposits made in savings banks other than those made by authority of the probate court, court of insolvency or other court.
To the State Board of Health.
1907 December 9.
PUBLIC RECORDS LETTERS AND REPORTS IN CUSTODY OF
Under the provisions of R. L., c. 35, § 5, that "The words 'public records' shall mean any written or printed book or paper. . . in or on which any entry has been made or is required to be made by law, or which any officer or employee of the Commonwealth . . . has received or is required to receive for filing," reports and letters of complaint which are the result of investigation made by the State Board of Health under its general authority to make sanitary investigation and inquiry, which are in the custody of the State Board of Health, are not public records, and therefore are not open to public inspection.
I am asked by the State Board of Health whether certain reports and letters of complaint are public records, within the meaning of sections 5 and 17 of chapter 35 of the Revised Laws, which provide as follows:
SECTION 5. In construing the provisions of this chapter and other statutes, the words "public records" shall, unless a contrary intention clearly appears, mean any written or printed book or paper, any map or plan of the Commonwealth or of any county, city or town which is the property thereof and in or on which any entry has been made or is required to be made by law, or which any officer or employee of the Commonwealth or of a county, city or town has received or is required to receive for filing, and any book, paper, record or copy mentioned in the six following sections. The word "record" shall, in this chapter, mean any written or printed book, paper, map or plan.
SECTION 17. Every person who has the custody of any public records shall, at reasonable times, permit them to be inspected and examined by any person, under his supervision, and shall furnish copies thereof on the payment of a reasonable fee. In cities and towns such inspection and furnishing of copies may be regulated by ordinance or by-law.
You say that the Board, under its general authority to make sanitary investigations and inquiries, began on March 1, 1905, a systematic examination of premises where milk is produced for public sale, employing a skilled veterinarian, who up to the present time has examined more than 8,300 dairies; that for convenience and the sake of uniformity the conditions observed at each place are reported to the Board on blank forms, and in case the conditions noted are incompatible with the production of a sanitary milk supply, the secretary of the Board calls the attention of the proprietor thereto, and makes suggestions with
the request that they be adopted. You say that the publication of a list of the farmers whose premises have been found to merit criticism would not be for the public good, but that an injustice would be done to those farmers who have adopted the suggestions offered and have continued to keep their cows and premises in proper sanitary condition.
These reports and letters of complaint about which you speak are not incorporated into and are not a necessary part of the record which you are required by law to keep. If they were, it would be your duty, upon request, to furnish them for inspection and examination, and to furnish copies of the same. Such being the case, and such papers not forming a part of the record of the work done in your office, and not being of such a character that you are required by law to receive them for filing, but being obtained and preserved by you for your own convenience in the proper administration of your office, you are not obliged to exhibit them to any person who may ask to see them. Similar opinions have been rendered to various departments by my predecessors, and I see no reason for departing from the rule already laid down by them.
PAUPER LAW CONTAGIOUS DISEASES
QUARANTINE - TEM
PORARY AID TO UNSETTLED PAUPERS - CITIES AND TOWNS - BOARD OF HEALTH OVERSEERS OF THE POOR.
If the family of an unsettled person suffering from contagious disease dangerous
You seek my opinion upon certain facts which are stated as To the Superfollows:
intendent of State Adult Poor.
A laborer, thirty years old, is suffering from tuberculosis. has been earning $9 a week, and has no money saved.
1907 December 17.
attending physician and the local board of health are notified. He has a wife and four children without means of support. Neither his wife nor his children are sick.
Upon these facts you submit the following specific questions:
Under the statutes, should the board of health provide for the sick person only, and the overseers of the poor provide for the other members of the family who are not sick?
If the overseers of the poor so provide, is the aid rendered by them to the persons not sick limited as to amount by the terms of the temporary aid law, if the persons so aided have no legal settlement, and reimbursement is asked from the Commonwealth?
Does the aid so rendered by the overseers of the poor pauperize the family?
Should the board of health provide not only for the sick person, but also for the other members of the family who are not sick?
Is the aid so furnished by the board of health to the persons not sick limited as to amount by the terms of the temporary aid law if the persons so aided have no legal settlement, and reimbursement is asked from the Commonwealth, or is such aid controlled only by the words "suitable" as to character and "reasonable" as to expense?
The statutes which are material in the premises are St. 1907, c. 386, amending St. 1902, c. 213, § 1, and the temporary aid statute, so called, R. L., c. 81, § 21.
St. 1902, c. 213, § 1, as amended, reads as follows:
Reasonable expenses incurred by the board of health of a city or town or by the Commonwealth in making the provision required by law for persons infected with smallpox or other disease dangerous to the public health shall be paid by such person or his parents if he or they be able to pay, otherwise by the city or town in which he has a legal settlement, upon the approval of the bill by the board of health of such city or town or by the state board of charity; and such settlement shall be determined by the overseers of the poor, and by the state board of charity in cases cared for by the Commonwealth. If the person has no settlement, such expense shall be paid by the Commonwealth, upon the approval of bills therefor by the state board of charity.
Section 2 as amended provides:
No person for whose care and maintenance a city or town or the Commonwealth has incurred expense in consequence of smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, tuberculosis, dog bite requiring anti-rabic treatment, or other disease dangerous to the public health shall be deemed to be a pauper by reason of such expenditure.
R. L., c. 81, § 21, so far as it is material to the present question, provides:
A city or town may furnish aid to poor persons found therein, having no lawful settlements within the Commonwealth, if the overseers of the poor consider it for the public interest; but, except in cases under the provisions of section fourteen of chapter eighty-five, not for a greater amount than two dollars a week for each family during the months of May to September, inclusive, or three dollars a week during the other months; and the overseers shall in every case give immediate notice in writing to the state board of charity, which shall examine the case and if it directs a discontinuance of such aid, shall remove such persons to the state hospital or to any state or place where they belong, if their necessities or the public interest requires it, and the superintendent of said hospital shall receive the persons removed thereto as if they were sent there in accordance with the provisions of section seven of chapter eightyfive.
This statute was amended by St. 1903, c. 355, but such amendment does not affect the present question.
The first question raised by the inquiries above quoted is whether or not the board of health of a city or town, if aid is furnished to persons other than the person infected with smallpox or other disease dangerous to the public health, may charge such expenses to or collect them from the Commonwealth in cases of unsettled persons.
I am of opinion that under the provisions of St. 1907, c. 386, §1, the board of health of a city or town is not authorized to charge to the Commonwealth any expenditures made to the family of a person infected with a contagious disease, such aid being necessary only when the family of the person affected is isolated or quarantined. This appears to be the conclusion reached by the court in the case of Haverhill v. Marlborough, 187 Mass. 150, which was a suit brought by the city of Haver