We had the pleasure of speaking with Record Management Coordinator, Chiquita Taylor for Grand Prairie, Texas. Grand Prairie is in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and has a growing population of about 200,000.
How did you process PRR prior to implementing JustFOIA?
Prior to JustFOIA everything was processed by paper by individual departments. It was not centralized in the city secretary’s office like it is now. The departments processed their requests in their own way as they received them. We were receiving requests on any piece of paper that was available. We’d have people put in requests on the back of the utility bill and struggled to get requests that were readable. We also had no real way of tracking the time from when a request was received and when it was completed.
Ultimately why did you choose JustFOIA as your PRR solution?
We wanted to centralize the records requests process in the city secretary’s office. The physical locations are not always centralized in city hall or close by. Grand Prairie is a large city by square miles and we have departments that may be 3 miles away from city hall. We wanted a request to come in one place and exit the same place.
What does your process look like now that you’ve implemented JustFOIA?
When a requests comes in whether it comes in via phone, mail, email or paper everything goes into JustFOIA. If it comes in by email, we’ll attach it or by paper we’ll scan it in and attach a scanned copy of the paper request. All of the workflows are done in JustFOIA and all of the tracking is done in JustFOIA. It has also helped with turnover. Before when there was turnover, with each department having their own process it was difficult to train people on processing records requests. With JustFOIA the training is very simple and it’s so much easier to get people up to speed.
How does JustFOIA help you with managing risk and legalities of processing PRR?
Here in Texas, we have ten business days to respond to a request. JustFOIA automatically processes the ten days for us. So, when someone submits a request, the due date is automatically the ten-day mark. I check JustFOIA every day and it alerts me on any requests that aren’t processed by day 8. We don’t have to fulfill a request that is large and requires more time by the ten-day mark as long as we reach out to the requester by that mark. Through JustFOIA we have templates that we can email to the requester with the amount is going to cost or if it will take extra time. We do everything through JustFOIA including communicating with other departments. If there is a request that involves 4 or 5 departments, we can add notes on the request. If a requester then calls back with a question or issue, it saves me time from having to call a department and ask what happened, when I can just look in and read the notes. I then can communicate that to the requester.
What is the most positive change you have seen since implementation?
We have such a more transparency from our community. We found that people are much happier with the system. A request that before would require them to come twice to our office, not only to fill out the request but to retrieve their documents, now they don’t have to come into the office at all. Everything is online and they’ll receive their request via email. Our requests are processed a lot faster, even if our number of requests increases there is no difference in the time it takes us to process a request. Because they’re processed electronically, People are paying online and everything is done through JustFOIA, so overall people are a lot happier.
What lessons have you learned and best practices can you share that will help others in the future when adopting JustFOIA as their PRR solution?
Things would be a lot more difficult if we were using the old system. Things are so much convenient. We get requests from people in different states even and that’s a lot of time for them to mail a request and now they can submit their request online, pay online and retrieve their document online. For us to have to process a request from someone out of state especially when the information is time-sensitive often for development. It makes us look a lot more transparent and professional. Sometimes we can respond to requests in the same day often within hours.
When sharing with others about JustFOIA, what would you say?
JustFOIA is so easy and intuitive, everyone can use it. Our requests are processed so quickly, and they can request, pay and access their documentation anywhere whether it’s on their phone, at home or at work.