Status Update: Backlogs and Bills

From backlogs and fees, to reexamining public record law language to change or expand the classification of public records; the world of public record management is in a period of transition.

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Featured

Thousands of public records requests are backlogged in Oakland, CA

According to the Times Herald, when people try to obtain public records from the city of Oakland — especially police reports — many probably feel their requests have been tossed into the abyss.

In more than 6,300 cases, the police department and other city offices either haven’t responded to record requests or haven’t supplied all of the sought-after documents.

The vast majority of open requests — almost 5,400 — were made to the police department, and some have been languishing since 2014. The delay in providing responses and records has prompted two recent lawsuits against the department.

Police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson acknowledged the backlog of responses in a statement to this news organization.

She said the police department several weeks ago was authorized to devote seven people to respond to record requests. “With the additional staffing we will focus on reducing the backlog.”

Read More | Times Herald

In each episode, GovQA’s Chief Evangelist, Jen Snyder connects with governments across the nation to discuss changes, pains, and victories in the public records space.

Legislation

North Carolina bill would open up HR records to public

A new bill filed Thursday [Mar. 25] in the state legislature would make the disciplinary records of North Carolina state employees public records.

Senate Bill 355, called the Government Transparency Act of 2021, would also require local government agencies to make performance records public.

The law as it stands today makes public record the dismissals, suspensions and demotions of state or local government employees. Letters explaining firings must also be public, part of changes adopted after The News & Observer’s reporting in 2010 on the personnel law. The bill would make public the reasons for suspensions, demotions and other moves.

Read MoreThe News & Observer

Michigan Lawmakers want to make state data on wild game immune to FOIA

The [Michigan] House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday [Mar. 23] that would make state data about the location of wild game animals immune to the Freedom of Information Act.

The bill was sent to the State Senate, and on Thursday [Mar. 25] it was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

State wildlife officials argue that making this kind of data available would threaten future wildlife studies and protection efforts. Representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs testified in support of the bill.

Read More | WLNS News

Litigation

Civil rights group sues Plymouth County, Massachusetts District Attorney over $1.2 million bill for public records

The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ALLU) is suing the Plymouth County district attorney’s office, which had demanded $1.2 million for the production of public records.

The civil rights nonprofit filed the lawsuit Thursday [Mar. 25] in Suffolk Superior Court against District Attorney Timothy Cruz’s office, more than a year after the ACLU first requested documents related to how the county’s top prosecutor decides to deal with police or prosecutorial misconduct, ask for bail, “reduce racial disparities,” investigate police shootings, handle complaints and review cases.

Cruz’s office issued a “good faith” estimate of $1.2 million for 49,000 hours worth of work billed at the maximum of $25 an hour.

Read More | The Patriot Ledger

Peer Feature

Clayton County, GA launches public record request platform

In an effort to enhance public transparency, Clayton County recently activated GovQA, a software solution that tracks public record requests across multiple departments, standardizes records processing, and helps to fulfill requests in accordance with Georgia law. The system will also help county officials understand the direct costs associated with records processing.

“Clayton County is committed to providing access to numerous resources, and GovQA will assist us in meeting this goal,” said Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford. “Additionally, this process will enhance efficiency and increase accessibility for everyone who interacts with Clayton County departments for open records requests.”

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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