How the City of Brookhaven Implemented Online Payments for Open Records Requests
It was our honor to hear from Cheryl Robinson-Smith, Systems Analyst for the City of Brookhaven. The city stretches over 12 square miles with a population of about 50,000 in the metro Atlanta area.
JustFOIA was a natural fit for the City of Brookhaven. “Convincing the city clerk’s office to get JustFOIA was easy, but getting them to move from the trusted spreadsheet system wasn’t as easy. It took a few months for them to become fully comfortable with the solution and let go of the spreadsheet. If there were features that the city clerk’s office needed, we would reach out to JustFOIA, and they expedited the feature. That gave them the confidence to only use JustFOIA for open records requests.” Says Cheryl Robinson-Smith.
The police department was reluctant, but it wasn’t long before they saw the value in an all-in-one online solution.
“Previously, the police department was using a spreadsheet, coming in by phone and walk-ins with one person was doing it. Once that person left, they couldn’t figure out what was done and not completed. At that point, they called the city clerks office who had already been using JustFOIA for years, and asked if they could use it to take open records requests.” Said Smith.
“It was over 400 open requests that were backlogged, and they were able to get it down to a manageable number of 40 or 60. After implementation, we also added payments through JustFOIA, which was also appealing to our police department as previously, you had to go into the office to make payments. Once they were on board, we helped them create templates, emails, and workflows using the platform, and as of this year, they are all up-to-date with no backlog.”
Taking payments through the system has saved the City of Brookhaven, not just time and money, but the headache of tracking down checks and payments from constituents. “Now with JustFOIA, we get more payments through JustFOIA than the city clerk’s office,” emphasized Smith. “It was beneficial for both departments. We were able to recoup thousands of dollars, and everything organized. Being able to make payments online streamlined the process, whereas before someone had to bring in a check and then it had to make its way to finance, possibly getting lost in the process.”
But their favorite part? A platform built for its users. “One thing we love is that if we reach out, you take not, listen, and the feature appears soon after,” beamed Smith. “With the dashboard on JustFOIA is just great. Supervisors can see how many requests are outstanding, what tasks need to complete. It’s also great for other users to use, you don’t have to be in IT to learn to use it, and I don’t have to go train everyone on every step.”