OUR VIEW: A good start - finally - for data transparency

Published on Thursday, 21 December 2017 20:38
Written by Staff

We’re glad to see the City of Bristol is buying a new information system to store emails issued from and to official accounts. It’s about time.

The new archival system will help resolve an issue that has plagued not only Bristol, but other local city governments, including New Britain’s. A change in administration - usually when a Democrat succeeds a Republican, or the other way around - seems to encourage a thorough housecleaning of data from the previous office holder’s time in office. These days, a good portion of that documentation is in emails.

The latest round came when new Bristol Mayor Ellen Zappo-Sassu’s administration charged that former Mayor Ken Cockayne left little behind in his office - paper and electronic documents apparently did not survive the transition. These documents, aside from being public property, are often needed to research past activities of the government and provide a historical record of what happened during a piece of the city’s history.

Management Information Systems Director Scott Smith, who was on the scene three years ago, reported to the Board of Finance that he was told not to buy the system then - apparently by officials including then-Mayor Ken Cockayne. He’s the one being accused of destroying those city documents before he left office. The cost of the system was the reason given at the time.

It doesn’t look like Bristol is going far enough, though. The new system, we’re told, will only archive emails and not other documents. So we’re solving the supposed Hillary Clinton problem, but not acting on the bigger picture.

A system that archives all documents, within reason - along with policies and procedures to make it effective - would be a good idea. Storage space is not expensive any more, and an organized data library would be a benefit to everyone, now and in the future. After all, just across town, Bristol Hospital set an example when it became one of country’s leading providers in implementing digital recordkeeping.

It looks like the system that was squelched a couple of years ago would have been a good investment after all. We hope other city and town governments take notice and become leaders in information transparency, and Bristol will move even further in that direction.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Thursday, 21 December 2017 20:38. Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2017 20:41.