County officials in Okaloosa and Walton want to set the record straight about their approaches to public records requests.
A recent article during Sunshine Week named them as two of three in the state that didn’t respond during a recent Associated Press investigation.
The two agencies were emailed public records requests in February as part of a joint exercise between the AP, Daily News and other newspapers statewide.
It was aimed at testing how various organizations replied to public records requests. Both were asked to provide all emails sent and received by the county administrator between Jan. 4 and Jan. 11.
Officials in both counties said the lack of response came from overlooked emails and not deliberate avoidance.
“It almost becomes personal to us: ‘Gosh, we’ve got to improve this and that because we missed this,’ ” said Rick Owen, who is the administrative manager for Okaloosa County.
The emailed request to Okaloosa County was sent through a link set up on the main page for the County Administrator and was likely seen from a phone and forgotten, he said.
Owen said most of their public record requests come through a link set up on the main page called “Records request” and receive a response in less than a day.
“It’s probably the single most important thing we do here,” Owen said.
Over in Walton County, County, Attorney Mark Davis took full responsibility for the missed request.
County Administrator Larry Jones forwarded the request to Davis’ office as county policy requires for all requests for emails. Then it somehow slipped through the cracks.
Davis said as soon as he learned about the missed request, he reexamined their process and added an extra step that should prevent the issue in the future.
All his employees now have access to a portal where all public records requests are placed and marked off as complete.
“We take this really seriously,” he said.
Original article here.