City of Oceanside Maintains Compliance with Public Records Requests Law

City officials more easily manage requests for information during busy election season, information search and retrieval time reduced

City officials more easily manage requests for information during busy election season, information search and retrieval time reduced

Mountain View, CA — November 10, 2004 — The City of Oceanside, Calif., said this week it is using VERITAS Enterprise Vault content archiving software to ensure all public records requests are met quickly and completely.

Developed by KVS, a business unit of VERITAS, Enterprise Vault helps Oceanside's information technology (IT) department fulfill public records requests in minutes instead of days, which translates into cost savings, particularly as the city copes with increased requests that come during an election season.

Oceanside, the third-largest city in San Diego County with a population of 165,000, receives between 9,000 to 12,000 e-mails each day. The California Public Records Request Act grants the public the ability to sequester all information, including e-mail messages and attachments, on any topic related to city business, including election filings and results.

"We have significantly reduced our search and retrieval time of e-mail requests," said Oceanside chief information officer Michael Lee Sherwood. "We recoup the money we spent to purchase and maintain the system if we use it for just a few requests a year. Since we process roughly 30 requests a year, and more in an election year, the ROI is tremendous."

Sherwood said the election season keeps his team especially busy. "We see a significant increase in the number of public records requests in the days leading up to and following Election Day from citizens and the media," said Sherwood. "Before implementing VERITAS Enterprise Vault software to automatically archive all e-mails that pass through our Microsoft Exchange environment, the process of locating and recovering e-mails was extremely time consuming and expensive. The law requires that e-mails must be available to the public, and we want to maintain 100 percent compliance with that mandate and provide excellent service to our citizens."

Sherwood said that before installing the Enterprise Vault software, the city spent an inordinate amount of time, especially during election years, meeting public records requests. The city's e-mail retention policy was to simply copy e-mails and attachments onto back-up tapes, so a single public records request meant IT staffers had to retrieve boxes of tapes from an off-site location and spend days searching each tape for relevant files.

"Meeting a request that involved only a few e-mails could take anywhere from eight to 20 hours, so looking for month's worth of data could take weeks and often our records were not 100 percent complete," says Sherwood. "Because every employee managed his or her own e-mail account, messages and attachments that should have been saved were sometimes accidentally deleted."

Since implementing the Enterprise Vault software, all e-mails that pass through the city's Exchange environment are automatically indexed and stored in original format. The software also provides an efficient means to search the archive, retrieve messages and package the results quickly for inspection by the city attorney, who can then deliver them to the initial requestor.