Monday, January 25, 2010

Kudos to two state agencies for getting it right on records

I've often bemoaned state government on this blog for its lack of cooperation with my records requests. This morning, I'm giving kudos to the General Services Department and the Department of Finance and Administration, both of which were able to dig up and e-mail me some records I recently asked for.

Seems like a simple thing, really. But consider this: the vast majority of other agencies are in the habit of taking days if not weeks to locate records, asking you to set up a time to stop by and see what you'd like to copy, then taking a few more days to copy them for you. Many require payment by check and don't take cash. (Keep in mind all that only happens if you work or live in Santa Fe. If you are requesting copies from Deming, for example, the process is even more burdensome, because most agencies won't fax copies, leaving information seekers waiting even longer.)

The other nice thing about the e-mailed records is that it saves the state time and money. No copies to run, no assigning someone to sit with the requester to look over the originals, or someone to mail the documents to the right place, etc.

Maybe in this time of budget crisis, the Inspection of Public Records Act ought to be amended to at the very least encourage agencies to scan and e-mail public documents. This might not work with very large requests, but for responses without too many pages, it should be an option. Scanning, of course, take the same amount of time as making a copy and my guess is most departments have access to at least one scanner. 

On that same note, agencies ought to consider doing away with the hard copies of the three-day notices that are sent to people who are seeking records. I only e-mail my requests to agencies, yet I routinely get hard copies (sent in fancy, embossed and color-printed envelopes) in the mail, despite specifying that I prefer e-mail responses. When you consider how many records requests the state gets in  a year, that could save a nice bundle. Just a thought. . .

Stay tuned for the story on the GSD records I mentioned.

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