Your public records responsibilities deserve better agenda solutions

City and county clerks have long lists of responsibilities, from preparing for council meetings to managing meeting minutes to safeguarding the public records of their cities or counties. The council vote, the basis for their decisions and the government actions that follow, are of intense interest to constituents and the media. Calls for more open government and transparent decisions have made longtime clerk responsibilities even more high profile.

Clerks have handled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and public records requests for decades. But the pressure continues to mount. And while polls suggest that local government is far more trusted than the federal government, journalists and constituents want to know why decisions were made and, often, how money is spent.

The problem is that when a clerk’s office relies on paper, it can’t weather the storm of public distrust or local controversy without significantly better tools than the usual file folders, cabinets and offsite storage. Beyond the storage and cost burdens, how do you ensure that you preserve every public record or potential FOIA request target?

Solutions that grow can take on records and more for your community

The reality is that while public records are often designated in statute and policy, records requests can cover just about any type of information. That’s why preserving files digitally and quickly is so important. Safeguarding documents within departments as they are created or collected makes it easier to ensure that you can fulfill requests.

The key is to move to paperless records, meetings and processes.

Organizations that use enterprise content management (ECM) or content services solutions often start with a solution to meet challenges within their legislative processes. Going paperless helps avoid the significant workload that comes from paper packets and minutes creation. By choosing this approach, rather than a standard agenda solution, they can build on their investment to continue to drive transparency efforts in other processes and departments – with just a single solution to support.

A limited agenda solution provides neither the longevity nor the repository that ECM or a content services solution offers to preserve records and documents for the time periods relevant to government actions.

Here are some of the key benefits to having a single solution serving your legislative and department work:

  • Meeting your legal responsibilities

ECM and content services can scale across the organization so that, over time, you collect all your critical content in a single, secure place. Not only does this eliminate filing, printing and copying costs, it makes it easy to ensure that you are preserving everything from agenda packets and minutes to video, files, photos and more.

  • Fulfilling requests efficiently

Digital files and content can be found quickly in an ECM or content services solution. Once a request is received, you can use a range of search tools, such as full-text search or the ability to search by document type, date or any number of keywords. No more rifling in multiple file cabinets or buildings and no worrying about documents being lost or destroyed accidentally.

  • Timing and tracking requests 

FOIA requests need to be fulfilled quickly, sometimes within a legal deadline. ECM and content services can help by accepting these requests electronically and then automating notification and completion tracking. This helps you avoid the extra work involved in manual tracking systems while you ensure that you’ll meet deadlines by using workflow notifications and time requests.

Renewed trust

The clerk’s office is an important part of our local democratic institutions. They collect and preserve the documents that explain government decisions.

In an environment of increased scrutiny and transparency demands, smart clerks everywhere are exploring ways to improve public records and FOIA request tools. And ECM and content services, with their flexibility to span across government, are the foundation of the new clerk’s office and renewed trust in government.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software deployment in government? Terri Jones, Hyland's government marketing portfolio manager, has your answer. In her 10 plus years in both state and local government, she's managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. If that isn't enough to prove her IT expertise in government, she has also designed and implemented data systems and websites to manage compliance and funding in excess of $90 million annually. Have a question for her? Contact her at terri.jones@onbase.com.

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