San Marcos, California by the Numbers
Employees at the City of San Marcos, just outside San Deigo (CA), pride themselves on providing good customer service experience both to citizens and internal team members. But they had a sticking point for many years: Public Records Act requests (PRAs).
One team member was responsible for every PRA that came into the City. She would juggle Laserfiche, shared folders, Word docs, Dropbox, interdepartmental memos, emails, and more solutions—to complete a single request.
“And to top it all off, we would create an Outlook calendar notification to remind us when a request was due,” remembered Customer Experience Manager Destiny Roig.
That meant barely squeaking their responses under the State of California’s 10-day deadline. And if the person processing requests was out sick or on vacation, those in the office didn’t know how to pick up where she left off.
A decade ago, San Marcos received a couple hundred PRAs per year, meaning this process (while cumbersome) was manageable. But like much of the country, they’ve seen that number steadily rise in recent years—and their PRA method just wasn’t sustainable anymore.
“To be quite honest, the customer experience wasn’t seamless or efficient,” said City Clerk Phil Scollick. “Some were even falling through the cracks—not a good thing when you’re talking about public records.”
Finding a Solution
So Phil approached the executive team with a request – funding for a records request software to process PRAs faster.
“We didn’t know exactly what the time savings would be,” Phil said, “but I knew there would be an increase in efficiency, and I’d be able to provide them the data to back the decision.”
With tentative approval from the executive team, Phil and Destiny began their search for the right solution. They had several top priorities in mind:
This last point in particular made JustFOIA stand out from the other vendors they consulted with.
“JustFOIA was the only vendor to ask us about our current process, acknowledge our pain points, and walk us through the demo to show how we can become more efficient in supporting our community,” Destiny said.
And JustFOIA’s personalized approach to onboarding meant Destiny and Phil felt confident that they would find the best way to streamline their specific processes.
“There’s no perfect software,” Phil said, “but JustFOIA is the perfect software for us in our situation.”
Now that they are live with JustFOIA, the five programs they used before are consolidated into a streamlined, all-in-one system.
“Everything is all self-contained,” Phil said. “We’re able to talk to all the different departments, to have automatic workflows set up, get automatic emails when it’s their turn or when they’re needed to fulfill a task, and they can save documents into the repository within JustFOIA. And then our requester can use the same dashboard to track the status of their request.”
PRA Processing Time
Before Implementing JustFOIA
After Implementing JustFOIA
Faster Turnaround Means Happier Customers
Phil quickly provided the hard data that his Executive Team wanted about increased efficiency.
In the seven months since going live with JustFOIA, the City of San Marcos has averaged nearly 100 requests each month. But despite this volume increase, they typically release records within three days of receiving a request—rather than the 10+ days they were taking before.
“We get a lot of kudos from our repeat requesters about how much they love the Public Portal and how user-friendly it is,” Destiny said. “We hear quite a bit that It just doesn’t compare to some of the other platforms that other cities are using.”
Communication and Teamwork
But using JustFOIA has helped their internal staff just as much, if not more.
“We’ve become better partners with each other, we’ve created a better team environment. We know what each of us are working on and we can support each other better with this platform,” said Destiny.
Rather than a single person shouldering the growing responsibility of PRAs, their whole team can support the process—including part-time staff.
In the past, Phil had been hesitant to utilize part-timers in the PRA process because it was hard to keep them up to speed on the status of the request.
“But right now, it’s my part time staff that have been running this process pretty much since day one in JustFOIA, and they’ve been killing it,” Phil said. “People who are only in here 4 hours a day can jump in a PRA, work on it, and go home. I can have somebody else come into that same PRA without skipping a beat. They know right where it’s at, what needs to be done and carry it over the finish line. That’s just something we couldn’t find anywhere else.”
“It Saved My Bacon”
JustFOIA’s detailed audit log, Phil says, “saved my bacon, and my attorney’s bacon.”
“We had a high-profile records request come in from a pretty litigious attorney. And we fulfilled the request within the required ten days and provided the documentation to them. It sat in their public portal for almost a month before they downloaded it. And then they finally reached out to my city attorney and started giving her grief that we hadn’t been responsive to her request. And I said, ‘Woah, slow down. Let’s take a look at this for you. Let’s look at the log.’ And sure enough, the log shows that we had provided the information within the time frame.”
“Unreasonably Amazing Service and Support”
And JustFOIA’s Client Service and Support teams have fulfilled the potential that Destiny saw in that first meeting. “In our history at San Marcos, we’ve never really had such a successful program rollout where everyone felt they had the training they needed to just dive right in,” Destiny said. “We have had nothing but unreasonably amazing service and support.”