The Perfect Public Record Storm

The events of 2020 combined with the growing complexity and demand for Public Record requests has created the perfect storm of chaos for public record managers across the country. We have resources to deliver calm.

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Featured

Data: Why Public Records Requests are getting harder to fulfill

The job of fulfilling public records requests is getting harder — but why?

GovQA is trying to dig into that question with its new Peers in Public Records Index, a quarterly look at various data from its customers. It’s found a marked increase in overall complexity since 2018, exacerbated by the pandemic.

The details of the PiPRIndex help shed some light on why that might be. The index is broken down into eight components dealing with everything from the number of public records requests coming in to the types of files being requested.

Read More | GovTech News

Legislation

Michigan's Governor vetoes COVID-19 bill related to Michigan public records

[Michigan] Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a pandemic-related measure on Thursday [June 3], nixing a bill that dealt with public record requests during a health crisis.

HB 4448 would prevent the state from extending deadlines during a declared emergency for providing records in responses to requests made under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

In her letter, Whitmer suggested the bill is a response to an executive order issued last spring.

“This order was designed to protect the lives of public officials tasked with responding to FOIA requests during the first surge — an exceptionally frightening and uncertain moment in Michigan’s history,” Whitmer said.

Read More | The Detroit Free Press

New Jersey Assembly panel advances bill advocates fear could shield police records

The [New Jersey] Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee advanced a bill that would bar the release of personal information belonging to victims of and witnesses to violent crimes under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) over the concerns of transparency advocates who worried the provision would allow police to block the release of documents related to police misconduct.

The bill cleared the committee in a 6-1 vote. Advocates feared the bill would allow police officers engaged in use of force incidents to claim victimhood and shield their names from disclosure under OPRA.

Provisions of OPRA require the release of arresting officers, though advocates, including prominent OPRA attorney CJ Griffin and Lauren James-Weir, who represented the New Jersey Press Association, feared the new bill could override that requirement.

Read More | New Jersey Globe

Litigation

Minneapolis illegally withholding hundreds of police misconduct files, says lawsuit from public records advocates

A group that advocates for government transparency says Minneapolis is illegally withholding hundreds of police misconduct records, some for serious wrong­doing by officers, through a rhetorical loophole known as “coaching.”

Minnesota law classifies complaints against police as public documents if the officer receives any discipline for the conduct. But Minneapolis has for years contested that coaching — a form of one-on-one mentoring — doesn’t meet the bar of real discipline, and the city has kept these records locked away from public view.

A lawsuit filed in Hennepin County court Thursday [June 3] says this is a willful misinterpretation of the statute designed to circumvent Minnesota data laws. This practice has promoted a culture of secrecy, allowing the Minneapolis Police Department to operate without accountability to the people it serves, according to the civil complaint, brought by nonprofit Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, or MNCOGI.

Read More | Star Tribune

Peer Resource

The American Rescue Plan Act (and its impact on Public Records) explained

ARPA funding builds a bridge toward economic improvement and provides vital support to communities in crisis. With these funds, jurisdictions will be able to strengthen their support for vital public services hampered by the public health crisis, including managing and processing FOIA requests.

Read more to explore how to request ARPA resources, use these funds for public records software, and attain valuable resources to persuade organizational decision-makers that ARPA funds should be used to address challenges with processing public records.

Free eCourse

Read More | GovQA

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, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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