The Importance of Documentation

Register
Sep 10, 2013

 

My topic this week is how important documentation is to government entities and to the public.

Documentation cannot fall by the wayside just because staff has been reduced.  Whether or not minutes of a meeting are required by law, it is always a good idea to take the minutes. Minutes and documentation can be a good tool to inform the elected officials and the public of matters concerning the entity.  Minutes don’t have to be verbatim just record the high points and basics of the meeting so others can know what transpired in order to make well informed decisions.  

Minutes remind the elected officials what they discussed at the last meeting and whether or not they need to follow-up on old business.  Part of the entity’s clerk’s job is to complete the minutes in a timely manner. There are some clerks that are not current in their minutes while other clerks never miss getting them out on time.  The City of Sandusky’s clerk is to be commended for always completing the minutes in a timely manner no matter how much work crosses her desk.    

Most of the time, compliance is adhered to when requesting a record, but there can be times when requesting public records can become challenging. A legal reason must be given when not complying with a request for public records.  Offering up an excuse of not having enough staff to fill the request is not a legal reason for not handing over a document which is important in order for the entity to function.  

There are times when noncompliance of a record can have consequences for the entity. A woman did take her city to task for not handing over a public document and won her case. Once a case has been won, it sets the stage for other entities to think before they decide not to comply with a public document request, or end up spending time and money in court.       

Until next week, entities should not be negligent when it comes to documenting the government’s business.  Public documents belong to the people and those documents should be readily available when requested unless legally prohibited from releasing the document.