I just finished reading an article in the Providence Journal, “Town settles suit over records access.” In this article, it stated the Town of North Kingston, RI agreed to pay a fine as they acknowledged it violated the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) a year ago. It got me thinking that if a small Rhode Island town such as North Kingston was fined, what calamities are happening at the city, county state and federal levels. This inspired me to write about it, knowing the perfect solution exists right here in the Konia Minolta storehouse of Information Management offerings.
To begin to understand how requests can slip through the cracks or mistakes are made, let me recap this article and use it as a simple example of an APRA breach of compliance.
A former School Committee member sent an email seeking information about a School Committee request to transfer money out of its budget. He received no reply. He then filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, which, in turn, filed suit against the town in Superior Court.
Under APRA, a public body must supply the requested documents within 10 business days or seek a 20-day extension. If a request is denied, the reason must be sent within 10 days.
The town only responded after the School Committee member filed his APRA complaint with the Attorney General’s office. The original request had been overlooked in the pending resignation of the town finance director. The Attorney General’s office, however, found the town in violation and announced in a news release that the town acknowledged the violation, agreed to pay the fine, and settle the suit.
Does it seem harsh to you? It does to me. BUT, it is a state and federal mandate.
So how do government agencies cope with the overwhelming amount of requests, tight deadlines to meet these requests, the unexpected occurrences such as resignations, and the usual lost or misplaced paperwork/information?
We recommend our Public Records Request solution. With this solution, you simplify create a request submission and it follows a workflow until fulfillment. From simple, automated online request capabilities and comprehensive record searches to digital delivery, our Public Records Request solution improves the process from beginning to end. The solution tracks and stores all information surrounding a request as well, so any time an audit comes up, it’s easy to demonstrate that your organization completed requests within the legal timeframes. With a digital solution to record your requests and activity, you get the transparency and speed your constituents expect for completing public records request.
We love this solution as it allows the government agencies to meet its responsibilities of safeguarding and providing public records – despite budget cuts and staff reductions- and to use a phased in approach. This Information Management system allows governments to start with a basic system to fulfill immediate needs and then ramp up the system’s capacity when cost allows or demand increases.
Need to see for yourself how an automated Public Records solution can help your government entity complete timely records requests without using additional staff? Contact us now for a complimentary demo.