How ‘America’s Best City’ Makes Government Transparent
When Diana Cordray first saw a document management system at a conference in the late 1990s, she realized that it could help with two of her most important goals: increasing the efficiency and transparency of her city's government.
In her role as both the city clerk and city treasurer, Cordray is responsible for managing Carmel's documentation as well as all of the city's payments, investments and assets. Located immediately north of Indianapolis, Carmel is one of the fastest-growing cities in Indiana. In 2012, CNN Money Magazine awarded it the first place in its “Best Places to Live” listings, calling it “the ideal place to work and play.”
The Laserfiche document management system Cordray installed allows citizens to look up city ordinances all the way back to 1897. It also makes accessible minutes of all government meetings, as well as details about city contracts and accounts payable. The system helps other department heads look up details about contracts on their own and get answers immediately. "When they have a question about a contract, they can usually get the answers online," she says. "Before that, personnel had to visit my office to obtain paperwork."
Cordray's success in records management inspired the city police department to develop its own program to keep track of its internal documents.
Her concern with financial transparency has won her numerous awards. In 2008, Cordray was awarded the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns' Financial Management Award. She was also awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for fiscal years 1998 through 2008 for her work on creating Carmel's first Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a document used by credit rating agencies and other high level financial firms when dealing with the city.
Although the city has moved many of its documents online, it still hasn't given up its filing cabinets. The State of Indiana has created rules about which documents must be maintained in paper format and which can be disposed of once scanned. "The city has grown from 25,000 to 80,000 very quickly," says Cordray. "If we had not begun scanning in 2000, we would be bursting at the seams."