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Home > Publications > Quill > Profile: Utah State Ombudsman Rosemary Cundiff



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Thursday, October 4, 2012
Profile: Utah State Ombudsman Rosemary Cundiff

By Whitney Evans

What do you do, Rosemary Cundiff?

BACKGROUND:

Cundiff has worked at the State Archives for 12 years. She spent seven of those years in records management. She is currently the manager of the records analysis section.

WHAT SHE DOES:

As ombudsman, she works with government entities who are responding to records requests. She also responds to the public and has the authority to mediate disputes.

She will work with the archives training person to develop the online training for those who respond to record requests.

"We hope that they will understand the law as it applies to record management and in particular, in responding to record requests," Cundiff said.

WHAT SHE HAS DONE SO FAR:

She has received more than 300 requests since she started the job in early May.

The state archives website now has posted local government records ordinances and policies online. It also features links to state and federal records laws.

Those with questions can access Cundiff's contact information on the website or fill out a form at archives. utah.gov/records management/government-records-law.html

WHY IS TRAINING NECESSARY?

A person who responds to records requests will need to know what classifications to make, what they mean, how to classify a record and what fees they can charge.

The training mandate is a provision of S.B. 177 withthe potential for themost impact, according to Linda Petersen, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chairwoman. Up until now there was very little training, and those in charge of records were afraid to do something wrong, she said.

"Hopefully the training will give them the confidence level to be able to release what the law allows the public to have," Petersen said.

CUNDIFF’S VISION FOR STATE ARCHIVES:

"I'd like to see a GRAMA website that just has resources for the public as well as for government, because I don't think members of the public necessarily think to go to the State Archives website for that information."

She would ultimately like the website to display the GRAMA title so the public will recognize it, with resources available for record requests, forms, training, how-to's, and links to the records laws and local record policies and ordinances.

The Archives has a collective goal of being able to provide contact information for the records officers for each state government entity on the Archive website. That way, it will be clear where to direct requests and who is responsible for responding.

SOME HURDLES

Managing electronic records and maintaining consistency in retention schedules. GRAMA does not explicitly state how to apply the law to electronic records. Some public bodies don't know how to respond if the requested information is contained in a database rather than on a paper record, since information in a database has different characteristics than information on paper records. The training will be able to help them differentiate between records and guide them through the process of responding.

STAFF AND FUNDING

Ultimately, she said, state archives will need more funding and people involved in order to more effectively train records officials and help manage the heavy workload.

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