San Rafael, CA – Filing a California Public Records Act (PRA) request with the County of Marin just got much easier. The Office of the County Counsel has initiated a pilot program to simplify PRA requests by launching a webpage with software from NextRequest, a company that facilitates public access to public records.
The County’s new web portal helps residents find all previous PRA requests and responsive documents online, increasing the odds that they might find what they’re looking for without having to submit a new request. (Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash)
The new web portal helps residents find all previous PRA requests and responsive documents online, increasing the odds that they might find what they’re looking for without having to submit a new request.
Official records are held by County departments and the Clerk of the Board office pursuant to governing document retention schedules. The following departments are participating in the pilot program by handling PRA requests received through the NextRequest system: County Administrator’s Office, County Counsel, Community Development Agency, Cultural Services, Finance, Information Services and Technology, Parks and Open Space District, and Public Works.
The County contracted with NextRequest in March 2019, at a cost of $7,750 per year and $4,000 in one-time set-up fees, to assist staff in more efficiently handling PRA requests, sharing the results of similar or identical requests, and simplifying the process for those filing requests. The software works cross-departmentally to streamline requests and assure that no request goes unanswered.
The County’s main website, www.marincounty.org, has a robust archive of public documents, and lots of information is readily available without the need to file a PRA. Marin County Open Data is another online resource packed with reports, statistics and other government records. It contains databases of Marin resident demographics, crimes reported to the Sheriff’s Office, Parks ranger-reported incidents, beach water quality samples, bicycle accident emergency responses, and much more.
“This pilot program gives us an opportunity to test whether we can improve our PRA processes,” said County Counsel Brian Washington. “We hope that this program makes it easier for people to navigate the County’s document archives.”
Californians have the right under the 1968 Public Records Act and the state Constitution to access public information maintained by local and state government agencies unless it is exempt by law. Upon receiving a request for records, government staff generally has 10 calendar days to respond. The initial response may be simply a determination of whether or not the County has the records requested along with approximately how long it will take.
There is no cost to those filing a PRA request, although fees of 15 cents per page apply for hard-copy records and nominal fees are applied when information is provided on a flash drive or CD.