Saturday, June 30, 2012

Public Records Retention Guidance

What are "public records" that need to be retained?

Public Records that must be retained under Oregon's Public Records Laws are those that are "made, received, filed or recorded in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business." See ORS 192.005(5).
Examples include: contracts and agreements, policies and procedures, work schedules and assignments, meeting minutes and agendas, accounts payable and receivable records, dispatch records, employee personnel records, and records that document communications created or received by TriMet that directly relate to TriMet programs or administration.

Official Copies
Only the "official copy" of the record needs to be retained.  The "official copy" is the designated copy when multiple copies exist; duplicate copies of a record that are kept only for convenience of reference do not need to be retained.
Look to the subject-matter of the record to determine who is responsible for retaining the official copy for the agency.  If it is not clear who is responsible for retaining the official copy of a record for the agency, the record should be retained by the holder(s) of the record in accordance with the Retention Schedule, even if this results in retention of duplicates within the agency.
Example: An e-mail exchange between a Finance Department manager and the Human Resources Department regarding a revision to a Finance employee's job description.
Here, the HR Department would be responsible for retaining the official copy of the e-mail exchange since the subject-matter of the email (a personnel issue) relates more closely to the function that the HR Department serves within the agency. See HR-384 Records Management Policy, Part 4 for more details and examples.
For e-mail, the official copy is typically the completed e-mail chain with any attachments.  See HR-201 Electronic Mail Policy for further guidance.

How long do public records need to be retained?

The State Archivist's General Retention Schedule for Counties and Special Districts ("Retention Schedule") provides TriMet with the minimum period of time that public records must be retained under Oregon's Public Records Laws.  These minimum requirements are set by the State Archives and are based on the administrative, fiscal, legal and historic value of public records.  Employees should refer to the Retention Schedule to determine how long to keep public records.

How do I use the Retention Schedule?

There are 41 sections in the Retention Schedule.  Each section contains "record series" categories, which are groups of related records that are filed or used together as a unit.  Click here to view the sections that most likely apply to TriMet records.
Example of a "Record Series": "Contracts, Leases and Agreements" is a record series category in the Administrative Records section of the Retention Schedule. This category contains groups of related records that are filed or used together as a unit such as: contracts, exhibits, bid documents, change orders, proposals and other significant related correspondence.
To determine the appropriate retention requirement, find the "record series" category that best matches the function/content of the record, regardless of what section heading the record series is listed under.
Example: the best match for the Marketing Department's advertising records is probably the "Non-Fair Advertising and Promotion Records" record series.  Even though this record series is listed under the "County Fair Records" section, the State Archivist advises that the sections in the Retention Schedule are designed to be used by any department.

Destroying Public Records

Official copies of public records can be destroyed if:
  1. The applicable legal retention period has expired; and
  2. The record is not subject to a legal hold; and
  3. TriMet does not have a continuing business need for the record (TriMet does not need the record for current business activity or to serve as its institutional memory).

Staff should inform their divisions' designated Records Coordinator of the pending destruction of official public records and work with the designated Records Coordinator to ensure compliance with the records destruction requirements found in HR-384 Records Management Policy.
In addition, Oregon Administrative Rules require TriMet to submit an annual report to the Oregon State Archives Division of public records (paper only) destroyed on the authority of an approved records retention schedule.  To comply with this requirement, TriMet divisions must complete a Records Destruction Form when official public records (paper only) are destroyed. Forward completed Records Destruction Forms to TriMet's Records Analyst.

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