I don't disagree with Jesse's preferred solution ("Implement processes and solutions (almost always also involving
technology) that makes it easier to process those requests ....."), but I will point that having good basic records management policies, procedures, and techniques in place MUST come first. All too many governments fall short on that account (which may explain to some degree, but does not excuse, the "burden")..
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----- Original Message -----
From: Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thu Jun 19 15:09:28 2008
Subject: Re: [RM] It's a burden for us to respond to enquiries for public records. Boston Finance Commission.
As I was the one that made the point about inundating government agencies
with records requests, let me clarify that I don't advocate that at all, but
that there are a number of FOIA/Open Records Act/Sunshine act activists and
blogs that do.
I have worked in government and have nothing but respect for the vast
majority of employees and jurisdictions. I also know that in far too many of
those offices there is a concern about what records folks ask for, whether
electronic or paper, and that it is not at all uncommon for employees and
managers to erect ministerial and administrative roadblocks.
If I go to a city traffic clerk and ask for an adjudicated traffic ticket,
in most jurisdictions the law says they have to give it to me - period, no
questions asked. I know some of you operate that way. I also know that many
government agencies don't and I respectfully submit that the fact that they
do is both beyond question, though not beyond questioning, and a legitimate
concern for government records managers everywhere. If the shoe DOESN'T fit,
better for you!
Those open records advocates are fighting for government transparency,
albeit in a different, more aggressive way than many of us would like and
often at significant expense to the agency. My point is that I understand
their frustration and concerns, and as they harness collaborative and
networking solutions to learn from each other, I expect the pace of these
types of requests to increase. Abusive? If you're the recipient of the
request, it sure could seem that way. But the law is what the law says.
There are some solutions:
- Ignore the request and then litigate, at significantly greater expense
- Rewrite the procedures, with the result of not complying with the law (and
see previous solution)
- Rewrite the law
- Implement processes and solutions (almost always also involving
technology) that makes it easier to process those requests, with the
ultimate goal long-term of providing self-service access to most requests
regardless of the nature of the request or the volume of information to be
I hope this clarifies the point I was making somewhat.
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