State improves records response time (ShutterStock image)

Wisconsin improves records response time by 30 percent

With all the automated tools available to citizens to file public records requests, agency records managers have been laboring under increasing workloads.

In Wisconsin, agencies logged more than 11,000 requests in the last year, but after Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order in March 2016 directing agencies to improve customer service related to records requests, agencies have been able to meet requests promptly, update requesters on the status of their requests, track all requests and facilitate access to electronic records whenever possible.

Before the order, it took agencies about 13 days to fulfill a request. Now response time is down to nine days even with an increase in requests -- a 30 percent improvement, according to a report on the Wisconsin State Journal.

The executive order asked agencies to respond to requests for updates within five workdays, deliver records on straightforward requests within 10 workdays, clarify requests when necessary and provide a written explanation when records are withheld. Additionally, agencies were to publicize an email address for receiving records requests, implement a tracking system and provide electronic copies of records already in electronic format.

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is encouraged by the progress. “Agencies have been saying, ‘We don’t have the resources to respond more promptly,’” Bill Lueders, the organization’s president, told the State Journal. “What the governor’s executive order reminded them is they need to find those resources.”

For Sunshine Week 2017, the State Journal measured the Wisconsin's progress. It compiled and analyzed more than 20,000 state agency log entries since Jan. 1, 2015, that included both a discernible request date and completion date. The results are included with the article.

To improve transparency further, Walker issued an executive order March 9 that directs state agencies to identify areas where the public regularly seeks certain records and to develop a plan for making those records publicly available without a records request. Agency Performance Dashboards will also be expanded to include metrics tracking how many public records requests each state agency receives, as well as the average time to fulfill a request.

“Last year, our Sunshine Week executive order went above and beyond what was required by law to ensure our citizens have greater access to an open and transparent government,” Walker said in a statement. “The public will continue to receive more access to records and information than ever before.”

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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