Madison County Courthouse

The Madison County courthouse is seen on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

Support Local Journalism

Madison County plans on using a new system to handle public records requests.

During the Madison County Commissioner meeting on Monday, the commissioners decided they wanted to go forward with implementing public records request software from GovQA. GovQA is a company that sells software to automate public records requests for county and city governments.

The county commissioners heard a presentation from GovQA during the commissioner’s meeting on March 22. During that meeting, Captain Mike Courtney of the Madison County Sherriff’s Office said the sheriff’s office has been getting more requests in the last few years and those requests have increasingly become more complex. In recent years, the office has received 300 to 350 requests per year.

“This will just help us immensely,” Courtney said during the March 22 meeting. “We’re getting a lot of these and my concern is I want to make sure we’re doing them correctly and in a timely manner.”

Adam Nieder, GovQA Idaho Client Executive, said the software simplifies the public records request workflow in his presentation. The software redirects requests to information that may already be available online and creates a database that helps requesters make their requests more specific. Government agencies can also submit large files on the database and enter keywords that can automatically be redacted in any document before it is published.

“(The software) will ultimately serve your constituents more effectively while also avoiding potential lawsuits and freeing up more work time for your staff,” Nieder said.

On Monday, County Commissioner Brent Mendenhall said the sheriff’s office has the biggest need for the software and would put some relief on the office by shortening the amount of time it spends on public records requests.

The software would cost the county $6,500 a year to use across all of its departments. For the sheriff’s office exclusively, it would cost $5,000 a year.

County Commissioner Chairman Todd Smith said other county departments have not expressed a need for the software like the sheriff’s office has. Mendenhall said it would be wise for the county to have it accessible for all of its departments.

“(Other departments) may see something that is a repetitive request,” Mendenhall said. “Once they build the database, it’s there and it might be better to get in on the ground floor now.”

Mendenhall added that the software could also help law enforcement determine if crime activity is rising in a certain area.

While no official action was taken on Monday, all three county commissioners said it was something they wanted to go forward with and see if they could use federal COVID-19 funds to pay for it.