Richardson Needs More Help Filling Open Records Requests

Saturday, Jan 2, 2010  |  Updated 10:15 AM CDT
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Richardson Needs More Help Filling Open Records Requests

AP

Open records requests have increased so much in Richardson that the city secretary's staff must hire a third employee.

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Open records requests have increased so much in Richardson that the city secretary's staff must hire a third employee.

City Secretary Pamela Schmidt told The Dallas Morning News that she and her assistant spend much of their time fulfilling the requests, which have risen from 257 in 2008 to more than 300 in 2009.

"We need staff," she said. "We need to get this done."

Schmidt, president of the Texas Municipal Clerks Association, says there is no pattern of increasing numbers of requests across the state or region, but some cities are experiencing similar increases.

She attributes the spike in part to the public being more aware that they can get information from the government. Also, it's easier now to file requests via the Internet.

Richardson resident Nathan Morgan said filing an open records request is the only way to get questions answered completely.

Morgan said some of the 38 requests he has filed are follow-ups because an initial query did not produce "the right document to get the right information."

Schmidt also said more businesses are asking for records.

While Richardson is adding staff to deal with the increase, other cities have used technology to manage records.

Over the past decade, requests in Coppell have dropped from about 3,500 in 1999 to about 600 in 2009. City Secretary Libby Ball said five people accounted for 95 percent of the requests in 1999.

She attributes the drop to the use of a document management software called Laserfiche and seeing some of the people who made the most requests stop asking for records.

"According to Laserfiche, we were one of the first to go across the board, putting everything up," Ball said. "One man was concerned we were hiding stuff. Once we put in Laserfiche, he could see everything out there."

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