Saturday, September 02, 2017

Stretching Credulity - Anchorage Police Need 40 Hours To Provide Data To Reporter

Here's the tweet from an Anchorage reporter:

APD = Anchorage Police Dept    
MOA= Municipality of Anchorage

A Related Story

Back in 1982 or 3 when I was working in the Human Resources department of the Municipality, a request came in from the League of Women Voters.  They wanted to see how much women and men got paid for the same work.  They asked if they could have it in two weeks.  The person who handled that had it done in an hour or two.  Then she held on to it for a week.  I asked why.  If they know I can get this information this fast, they'll be flooding me with requests.

I understood the logic, though I wasn't completely comfortable with it.  But they had started with a two week request so it seemed ethically ok.

Jumping ahead 35 years to the present - A Few Thoughts

1.  MOA should be tracking overtime routinely.  The Municipality should be on top of overtime for all the departments, just as a matter of keeping spending down.  When you get enough overtime in a department, it's time to start weighing whether it wouldn't be cheaper to hire new employees.  Every 40 hours (or so depending on the department) of overtime would pay for a new employee working regular time.  Departments with hundreds of hours of overtime  are paying time and a half when they could be hiring new employees to work at the normal pay scale.  This article about overtime at the Fire Department would suggest the MOA is keeping track of their overtime at the Fire Department.  APD has similar issues, so it would make sense they were tracking that too.

2.  Modern computers make tracking this sort of information almost instantaneous.  If the MOA was able to get the information in the League of Women Voters story above in two hours or less in 1984, then there is no reason that the information that Travis Khachatoorian  requested can't be found in an hour or less 35 years later.  If they can't do that, they need to hire some competent computer programmers in Finance.

3.  The first five hours request processing time should be free.  OK, I'm using 2011 information here, but John McKay's Open Government Guide says the first five hours should be free. See page 9.  Also go to page 37 to begin the section on electronic records.  I'm not sure if the laws have changed or not, but electronic records capability are much faster now.  There are also provisions that allow for waiving fees in the public interest.

My Conclusions

There are several possible (not mutually exclusive) conclusions:

1.  The MOA is using archaic software that makes it hard for them to get this information quickly.  The scandal over the SAP computer project lends some credibility to this conclusion.

2.  The MOA can get the information much more quickly than they say, but doesn't really want the information out and is hoping the reporter will find another story to pursue.

3.  The MOA finance department is not the right department to ask for this sort of information.  Possibly payroll could do this more quickly.  But Travis says he asked the APD for the information, so they should have sent it to the right department.

4. This should be a very easy thing to find out on the computer.  If it isn't  the computer expertise at the MOA is much worse than the SAP problems suggest.

My gut says the problem is with number 2, but I'd need to get more data to be certain.


  1. Steve, Thank you for the excellent article.

  2. APD hired a programmer to develop a custom app they use to track and report on OT - this is separate from the current MOA payroll system as well as the future SAP system.

    1. Thanks, Lance. So they should be able to produce the info quickly.


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