FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 9, 2012
Macomb County clerk to test live county commission roll call votes and motions on Web using Google Docs
Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh announced today that roll call votes, motions and unofficial minutes for tomorrow’s Macomb County Commission meeting will be viewable as they are typed in real-time on the Web using Google Docs. The Commission’s organizational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 9 a.m. To follow the text of the proceeding Tuesday morning, see: http://www.macombcountymi.gov/clerksoffice.
In addition to promoting transparency, Sabaugh says an advantage will be that county commissioners have the opportunity to see the text of motions as they are made, which can make motions clearer during meetings and reduce administrative time required to reproduce motions. A motion made by a commissioner and typed by the clerk would be instantly available to all commissioners who wanted to view it on their phones, laptops or other devices. Sabaugh says another advantage will be the ability of her staff to detect corrections more quickly because “more eyes will be looking.”
Unofficial meeting minutes are normally not published on the Internet until the end of a commission meeting or the next day. Minutes are not official until adopted by commissioners at a subsequent meeting.
This will be the first time unofficial Macomb County Commission meeting minutes are made available in real time to the public using a Google Doc. Sabaugh said tomorrow’s agenda is light and no controversy is expected, making the meeting perfect to test a new innovation. Sabaugh directed her staff to find out if it would be helpful to offer this service for other meetings and commissions and to work out a process.
There is no additional cost for this service because it is part of the clerk’s Google Apps for Government suite. The county has over 400 Google Apps users. The clerk/register of deeds, court staff and County Executive Office recently renewed Google Apps for Government licenses for their departments. The county has approximately 1,500 non-Google E-mail accounts and 417 Google licenses.
“We are always trying to improve service and save money and Google Apps is another way to innovate,” said Sabaugh. Sabaugh listed several examples for how her staff uses the service.
“Using Google Chat we communicate with clerks while in court without being disruptive,” said Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh. “We use Google Docs so several staff can work on the same document at the same time without needing to stop for a meeting, which gets results more quickly for taxpayers.”
Jury staff uses the Google service to post juror Web updates without needing Web publishing software, and can post juror updates from home, even from their phones, such as for snow days. Vital records staff use Google Docs to track security paper. Court clerks use Google Groups to route criminal bind over faxes. Google’s search feature makes it easy to find old E-mails.
Clerk staff can view E-mail attachments in many different formats without the need for specific word processing software versions. Staff can also create and E-mail documents in many different formats for customers, including PDF.
The service even gives clerks the ability to send text messages to attorneys phone when cases are called, which is helpful when attorneys have cases in multiple courts on the same day.
Sabaugh’s staff uses Google Forms to track when courts need jurors. Vital records staff has used Google’s E-mail translation feature to translate E-mail to and from Spanish.
When a tornado touched down in Macomb County in 2010 disrupting power and some network services, the clerk’s Google service remained in service and accessible via cell phone and other networks until the county’s network and E-mail service were restored. Unlike with a more expensive in-house system, there is no single point of failure with Google Apps.
Sabaugh said the biggest draw to go Google is the cost control and predictability that comes with cloud computing. For a fixed per employee cost, the county gets Google Apps for Government and Google Message Discovery for archiving and e-discovery. There is no additional cost for servers, backup, antivirus or antispam protection, or disaster recovery. Google Apps takes less staff to maintain. When new enhancements are available, there is no need for extra investment. Savings are also realized because Google Apps for Government has zero scheduled downtime. Maintenance is performed while the system is running.
The county pays $58.94 per user per year (not per month) for Google Apps for Government and Google Message Discovery for archiving and e-discovery. The circuit court has 320 licenses, the clerk/register of deeds has 85 licenses, and the county executive has 12 licenses. The total 2012 cost for all of the services, E-mail, documents, calendar, antivirus, antispam, backup, security, is only $24,577.98.
Google launched Google Apps for Government with specific measures to address the policy and security needs of the public sector. Google Apps is the first suite of cloud computing messaging and collaboration applications to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation from the U.S. General Services Administration.
Sabaugh posted recognition by the State Court Administrative Office, and short videos demonstrating how her office uses Google Apps for Government, at http://www.macombcountymi.gov/clerksoffice/google.
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