Administrative Correspondence Retention Change

Rebekkah Shaw

On May 8, 2014 the Utah State Records Committee (SRC) again reviewed the proposed correspondence general retention schedules for approval. The correspondence general retention schedules were originally presented to the SRC on April 10th, but were not approved. Instead the SRC provided some clarity to the proposed description and moved to have the schedules posted for another 30 days. The April 10th revised schedules were posted for public comment on the Utah State Archives’ website as well as in a blog post from the same day.

Public comments received by the Utah State Archives focused on the proposed three year retention period for Administrative Correspondence. The following are excerpts from feedback sent to the Archives during the additional 30 days review regarding the Administrative Correspondence schedule:

The Attorney General’s Office had concerns about records being destroyed prematurely:

“We recommend that the retention period for the proposed “Administrative Correspondence” be enlarged from three years to seven years.  The reason for this is legal need – to make sure that documents necessary to protect Utah’s interests in future lawsuits are not destroyed prematurely, and to provide greater protection to the state from liability based upon the doctrine of spoliation.  That doctrine says that a court can impose adverse consequences (even dismissing a case or a defense) if a party destroys evidence after it becomes aware of the likelihood of litigation.  A state agency can become aware of the likelihood of litigation long before attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office see a filed lawsuit.  There is a “safe harbor” for normal document destruction done in accordance with standard retention procedures before legal counsel implements a “litigation hold” that suspends all destruction of potentially relevant documents.  However, that safe harbor only applies if the document retention policy is reasonable.  We feel the new “Administrative Correspondence” category will likely contain documents that are relevant to lawsuits, and that the safest thing to do is to choose a destruction date that is after the expiration of the statute of limitations in most cases.  The vast majority of cases in Utah have statutes of limitation of three, four, or six years.  We recommend seven years to allow time for a lawsuit to be filed and served on the state, and for legal counsel to impose a litigation hold on the relevant agencies.”

Cedar Hill Citizens for Responsible Government was concerned about government records being destroyed:

“[B]etter still is not destroying any records at all.  The public records serves many purposes, including protecting the public servant/official from himself.  When the public servant knows the records won’t be destroyed and his tracks won’t be erased—the temptations tend to disappear.  If we really care about those we’ve put into public office, then we’ll create and install measures most likely calculated to take into account human nature.

Conversely, it could be argued that a truly transparent government should WANT to keep all records in order to be able to prove at any given moment that they are always open, honest and accountable.

In conclusion, the public record retention timeframe is a direct reflection of how long we value government integrity—12 months worth? —or a more permanent trust?  The good news is that the minimal cost and power of today’s technology makes that decision much easier.”

Yvonne Christensen, a record officer from Davis County, expressed concerns regarding the time involved in email management under the Administrative Correspondence schedule:

“It would take at least an hour a day per individual to organize and preserve their emails. I don’t know how our IT department could possibly have the space for all of these emails. We already get notices our mailboxes are full. …

I would like to see general guidelines, but if these are serious expectations from the State Archives, it is so burdensome and odious it would completely cripple records specialists who are already buried.”

-Administrative Correspondence-Incoming and outgoing business-related correspondence, regardless of format or mode of transmission, created in the course of administering agency functions and programs. Administrative correspondence documents work accomplished, transactions made, or actions taken. This correspondence documents the implementation of agency functions rather than the creation of functions or policies. Business-related correspondence that is related to a core function with an associated retention schedule should follow the associated schedule. 7 years and then destroy. Utah Code 63G-2-301 (3)(h)(2013)- PUBLIC

After again reviewing the correspondence general retention schedules and taking public comment into consideration, the Utah State Records Committee moved to change the Administrative Correspondence schedule from three to seven years and to post the Administrative Correspondence schedule for public review and comment for another 30 days.

On the subject of the Executive Correspondence and the Transitory Correspondence retention schedules, the Utah State Records Committee moved to approve the schedules as presented. The approved schedules are available for use by governmental entities and are posted on the Utah State Archives’ website here: http://archives.utah.gov/recordsmanagement/grs/stgrs-1.html#28477.

The Administrative Correspondence retention schedule will be re-presented at the June 12, 2014 Utah State Records Committee meeting. We welcome your feedback on the revised Administrative Correspondence general retention schedule by either commenting to this blog post or emailing recordsmanagement@utah.gov