The Inaugural PEERS in Public Records Survey from GovQA was created to shed light on the key public records priorities across state and local governments for the coming year.
We received 320 submissions from public records custodians working in 257 unique agencies all across the country. See results below.
- 51% of respondents represent a public safety organization
- 22% were from state agencies, including Records Officers, Public Information Officers, Attorneys, and others
- 45% were from city agencies, including the Police Department, Public Information Officers, City Attorneys, City Clerks, IT Department, and others
- 25% were from county agencies, including Sheriffs, Records Managers, County Clerks, County Attorneys, and IT, Emergency Management, and Health Departments
- 4% represented education agencies
- 4% were from special districts
What were the highest (and lowest) priorities across all respondents?
60% of all respondents marked “Meeting Time Deadlines” (the time allowed by law for request response) as their highest priority for 2020. Several respondents commented that the state laws do not provide enough time for processing of the increasingly complex requests – especially those requiring eDiscovery or video and audio redaction. Close behind as a top priority (at 59%) was “Avoiding Lawsuits” (trying to comply with the law to avoid being sued). One respondent noted that she makes sure she has all the back-up documentation she might need in case her organization is ever involved in a lawsuit stemming from a request. Audit trails are key! But what other tools will help you meet deadlines and avoid lawsuits in 2020? Stay tuned for a deep-dive into these topics and others in the coming weeks!
And how did state, county and city agencies compare?
It’s interesting that while most priorities were similarly weighted across state, county and city respondents; counties definitely weighed avoiding lawsuits, adapting to legislation, and reporting/oversight as comparatively higher priorities than their state and city counterparts (see the taller turquoise data points in the chart). Check back for in-depth analysis and agency comparisons across the US! It can be said that “governments follow governments” — so we’ll be providing a snapshot of trends around the country to help you prepare for what may be coming your way.
What Tools Were Custodians Using
to Manage Public Records Requests?
We asked respondents to identify all the tools they use to manage public records. The chart shows which percent of the total tool kit used by respondents were particular tools of the trade. We will be investigating these alternatives and providing evidence as to why agencies using the manual tools below might want to consider taking steps to adopt cloud-based online tools. We’ll provide the hows and whys as well as the support you might need to get your tool upgrade request through procurement. Interested in these details? Sign up to receive these communications.
Things that make you go…hmmm.
- Why were election and voting records requests ranked so low given that 2020 is an election year?
- Why do records custodians rank data security so high, and accidental release of PII (personally identifiable information) as a lower priority?
- We received the highest number of comments on the survey question relating to “Request Volume Increases” – many respondents voiced concerns about the complexity of requests not keeping pace with staffing and job classifications.
- Was “Request Volume Increases” a higher priority for public safety organizations – and even higher still for public safety organizations which are already using body-worn cameras and dashcams?
The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, live roundtables, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.