Why did you choose JustFOIA?
The City of Smyrna has partnered with MCCi for years; we worked well with the team already and knew we could customize JustFOIA to fit our needs.
What pain points were you looking to solve?
Tracking. We needed a way to stay on top of the progress for each request. The amount of time we spent on open records requests was overwhelming, and our data was stored in an excel file to track details – that set us up for failure. JustFOIA prevents duplicate requests too. If multiple people are looking for the same information, JustFOIA makes that more accessible because the data was processed already.
It was all done via emails, hard copies, sometimes available on our website, and we stored information in Excel. Now, we encourage people to go through our website; this way, everything is tracked from the very beginning. Otherwise, we will enter it into the system for the requestor if they aren’t able to. See how Smyrna has it set up on their website:
What Departments use JustFOIA?
The Police Department receives common requests for accidents, citations, jail bookings, and other written reports. See how they process requests:
Clerk of Court & Court Services
The Clerk of Court/Court Services receives requests for mostly dispositions, citation information, and discovery (handled by the solicitor). See how they process requests:
Centralized Requests for the Best Citizen User Experience
Which Feature Improve your Process?
One of the things that I love about JustFOIA is that it will track all communications and files that were used while processing public records. People will say that they didn’t receive emails sometimes, and we have proof that it was. Even better, the team effort helps keep everyone on the same page about what’s happened, what needs to happen, and what needs to be done.
We currently use the Laserfiche for redactions. Using a pen doesn’t cover up the information securely. In Laserfiche, you can redact and make it viewable only to you, but it won’t be visible for others.
We also use JustFOIA to process lien requests. The lien request process allows companies to request information on current property tax liens generally for potential buyers. It saves money in attorney fees. Before JustFOIA, the time to process requests took about an hour, and now it is down to approximately 15 minutes!
When we have retreats, our city attorney always says we’re doing the best at open records! It always makes me feel good because what we do is a huge thing. “We do good with open records,” says Scott Cochran, Smyrna City Attorney.
Lessons Learned through Implementation
Because of the laws that Georgia has requiring a three-day turnaround, getting the system set up to work the way we needed it to with our deadline was challenging. It took about a year to refine our system. Smyrna was the first city in GA to purchase JustFOIA in 2014.
Once we worked through the beginning of the development for JustFOIA, things work smoothly. We were able to track and email correspondence within JustFOIA. With every upgrade, the system keeps improving. I get happier every time there are updates made to the system! The milestones we accomplished from where we started to where we stand today is fantastic. The progression is outstanding.
Advice for Clerks Considering JustFOIA
Recently, I shared with another city clerk to do herself a favor and call MCCi. She asked why, and I continued to tell her ‘because you are using spreadsheets and JustFOIA will make your life, and your citizens’ lives easier.’ The hardest part of the decision was overcoming the fear of where to start. We decided this fear was not going to hold us back. Of course, we found holes in our processes and little things along the way, but we worked through it – and now we love our new process.
The JustFOIA client focus group connected us with peers in other states with different laws. We learned best practices in a positive peer-to-peer environment. JustFOIA is user-friendly, and that’s what I tell everybody that’s searching for a solution. It’s so easy –look at the dashboard; it tells you what to do!
Interested in learning more about how JustFOIA can streamline your business processes? Contact us today!