Home > Records Management > Administrative Correspondence Retention Change

Administrative Correspondence Retention Change


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

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  1. Kim Coleman
    May 22, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    The link (http://archives.utah.gov/recordsmanagement/grs/stgrs-1.html#28477.) does not work. Could you please check and re-send the link.

    And while I’m responding regarding the link, I’ll go ahead and give a few input comments. I don’t want to offend, but when is it enough? I know there is horrible mistrust of government right now, and frankly I can understand why, having seen some terrible crimes, thefts, overrunning of power, and other things over the years. However, more and more laws and restrictions don’t fix criminals. You cannot legislate morality, values, and ethics. What we need is stiffer penalties for those who violate already existing laws and betray the public trust. If the penalties hurt enough, people won’t mess with things. To continue in the direction we’ve been going, we create more and more regulations to the point that the costs far exceed the benefits and our public servants can’t do any work other than compliance. I serve in dual positions in my entity, one position in Finance and the other with records. The GRAMA, Transparency and other regulations have grown to the point that the records duties now often far exceed the Finance duties (which really are supposed to be my primary duties) and I don’t have time to perform my intended functions unless I work a lot of overtime. Fortunately for our entity, I’m salaried and they can work me all the hours I’m crazy enough to work, and it won’t cost any more to our citizens. However, I can’t/won’t do it forever, and the costs will go up. In fact, they are already rising for all the storage and records management capacity we must purchase. Citizens demand open government and pass more and more laws for such, and yet they grumble that we need less govt. Citizens scream that they want fewer and lower taxes, yet they pass more regulations that add to the cost and size of govt. We can’t have it all. Somewhere there has to be a balance or someone must be willing to foot the bill for all the demanded services. Yes, the govt is here to serve the people and perform their will, and I have no argument with that. Somehow we need to decide what “their will” really is and then either help it be realistic or find a way to pay for more if that’s what they demand. I agree with the comments from Yvonne Christensen about crippling records people who are already buried. I am here to serve the citizens and will do as they wish as long as they are willing to pay the cost and provide the needed staffing.

  2. May 23, 2014 at 9:57 am

    If there is risk in deleting emails that may be needed for future litigation, there is also risk (and burden) in retaining administrative emails for such a long period of time. Having a three-year retention would make it legal to delete emails correctly categorized as administrative, which should protect agencies during the litigation process. How can the doctrine of spoliation trump records management statutes, such as the Public Records Management Act (Utah Code 63A-12-105) and GRAMA? If an agency creates and adheres to an internal email policy that is based on approved retention schedules, then they can defend themselves against accusations of intentionally deleting emails illegally.

    It seems that requiring agencies to maintain 7 years of administrative email, which would be subject to GRAMA requests and discovery, is putting an undue burden on them. It simply isn’t practical. I understand that the Attorney General’s office needs a six-month cushion past the statutes of limitation in order to assure that they are aware of any pending litigation and can place a litigation hold on records before they are destroyed. Since the majority of statutes of limitation end at three years, I suggest that a 3.5-year, or 4-year, retention be adopted for administrative correspondence. I believe that this compromise is the most pragmatic solution, when the risks of litigation and the challenges of records management are taken into consideration.

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