Companies and organizations could double their business opportunities in only a matter of weeks if they devoted more time and resources to inspecting public records.
Local, state, federal. Doesn’t matter. The information that springs from a city’s planning department is just as likely to yield millions of dollars in revenue as a much publicized federal contract.
We frequently scour public records for our clients, quickly alerting them when we think we’ve turned up something interesting. To aid our searches, we reach only for the best instruction — which is why we highly recommend these resources for professionals responsible for “business development:”
The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records by David Cullier and Charles N. Davis. It’s tough to find two people who know the ins and outs of public records better than these guys. Cullier is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. Davis is an associate professor at the University of Missouri. Their book, released in August, is a practical, no-nonsense guide to accessing and mining public records. Yes, these are journalists writing primarily for journalists — but that’s a good thing for professionals with no news experience. Why? You’ll get great insight in plain language without having to pay a lawyer $300 an hour to drone on about the history of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).
If you are looking for legal counsel, Scott A. Hodes is a formidable expert in government-disclosure law. Hodes is based in Washington, D.C., where he formerly served as a Freedom of Information Act attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hodes’ blog about all things FOI has plenty of fans at Media Salad.
Still more resources can be found at The National Freedom of Information Coalition, which is composed of state groups dedicated to open government and headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism (yes, Davis has his fingers in this pie, too). This frequently updated site is a great way to catch up quickly on news regarding access to public records — and to learn from the mistakes of companies and government bodies caught up in freedom-of-information disputes.