Bay County Cuts Request Volume 23% and Saves Countless Hours with Deflection

Digital document management illustration

Bay County, Michigan by the Numbers




Public Records Requests per Month


JustFOIA Users in the County + Sheriff’s Office


Reduction in Requests in Past 2 Years

How often do you get a records request, sigh, and think, “That’s not even our agency!”? Or what about, “Didn’t I fill this exact same request yesterday?

The inner workings of government can be complex, and it is understandable that requesters don’t always know exactly where to go for a particular type of record. But if you’re like virtually all our clients, you’re already dealing with more records requests in the past few years than you’ve ever seen before. And now you need to take time to contact requesters to get them redirected to the right office? That’s frustrating for your requester, too, who may feel like they’re getting the runaround.

Similarly, you may get many similar requests for high-interest records like budgets. Organizations often proactively publish these records, but requesters don’t always know where to look. That means you spend a lot of your time sending out the same information repeatedly.

Nicole LaDouce and Jayson Hoppe often faced these two issues in Bay County, Michigan…. Until they discovered how JustFOIA’s Dynamic Form Fields could deflect irrelevant or repeat records requests! Now, they see 23% fewer requests per month than they did two years ago – reducing the burden of incoming FOIA requests.

A Time-Saving Win for Requesters AND Staff

While the rest of the country’s requests are on the rise, Bay County has seen a 23% decline in their overall number of FOIA requests in the past 2 years—largely thanks to Dynamic Form Fields.

Bay County uses a single JustFOIA form for their public records request intake. But the form has been configured to recognize certain keywords that are associated with records that are either already published or should go to a different entity. When the requester types these words into a form, a message appears telling the requester how to get the records they need.

“And that’s one less request to fill!” said Nicole.

Jayson and Nicole can update the form at any time. “You can easily update the form and continually improve,” Jayson said. “If you see a request get through that shouldn’t, you can add another deflection message or keyword.”

Deflecting FOIA Requests for Other Entities

A wide range of records come under Bay County’s purview, including the Sheriff’s Office. But prior to implementing Dynamic Form Fields, a number of requests would come through in any given week that shouldn’t go to them.

Court Records: In Michigan, judiciary records are not covered under FOIA, so Bay County FOIA officials can’t respond to court record requests. If requesters type “court” in the form, they’re given detailed information about how to access different types of court records, along with phone numbers and addresses.

Police Reports: The Bay County Sheriff’s Office and the Bay City Police Department are separate entities. But since they’re housed in the same building, citizens would often try to request police records through the County. Now, the word “police” triggers a message to the requester with the contact information for local and state police departments.

As a result of this type of deflection message, requesters don’t have to spend time waiting for a request to be filled—only to find out that they haven’t gone through the correct channels.

Referring to Already Published Records

In the interest of transparency, Bay County publishes several types of records directly on their site for the public to access at any time. These include budget documents and environmental records. Key words related to these topics (budget, environmental, septic, etc.) trigger a message to the requester informing them that they can “skip the FOIA process by accessing this information online now.”

Nicole estimates that they used to get 10-15 requests every month for well, septic, and underground tank storage records. Thanks to dynamic forms, they now get virtually none.

Why JustFOIA?

Jayson and Nicole evaluated several FOIA solutions, so why did they settle on JustFOIA?

  • Ease of use
  • Configurable workflows that fit their process
  • Ability to select the features they wanted
  • Competitive pricing

Deflection is one of the many JustFOIA tools that can decrease your time to complete requests and take a load off of your staff.

No Prob-llama

Are you ready to say “no prob-llama” to records requests?

Already have JustFOIA but want to enable dynamic forms? Contact your client success specialist or fill out the form below for more information.