Records Management Essentials

Home        Records Management Essentials        Section 1        1.2. Records are the property of the State

1.2. Records are the property of the State

A fundamental concept of the Public Records Management Act is that records created by government are the property of the State. They are governed by statute and are not subject to the discretion of the government employees.

Utah Code 63A-12-105 – Records are property of the state – Disposition – Penalties for intentional mutilation or destruction.
(1) All records created or maintained by a state government entity are the property of the state and shall not be mutilated, destroyed, or otherwise damaged or disposed of, in whole or part, except as provided in this chapter
(2)(a) Except as provided in Subsection (2)(b), all records created or maintained by a political subdivision of the state are the property of the state and shall not be mutilated, destroyed, or otherwise damaged or disposed of, in whole or in part,…

The mandate that records shall not be mutilated, destroyed, or otherwise damaged or disposed of (except as provided) can be positively stated: records must be maintained and must remain accessible. Records are a valuable asset, and their preservation requires active attention. It is not enough that they are not inappropriately and deliberately shredded or deleted. They must not be mutilated or disposed of by virtue of neglect. Records that are not organized can become lost. Records on legacy formats can become inaccessible. Records stored in an unsafe environment can be damaged by exposure to the elements. Essential records that are not backed up can become lost through computer failure or disaster. Records are state property that must be appropriately protected.

The importance of maintaining government records is restated in the law, along with a declaration that intentional inappropriate destruction of records is a class B misdemeanor. Employees who intentionally and inappropriately destroy records may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension or discharge.

Utah Code 63A-12-105 – Records are property of the state – Disposition – Penalties for intentional mutilation or destruction.
(3)(a) It is unlawful for a person to intentionally mutilate, destroy, or to otherwise damage or dispose of the record copy of a record knowing that the mutilation, destruction, damage, or disposal is in contravention of
  • (i) a governmental entity’s properly adopted retention schedule; or
  • (ii) if no retention schedule has been properly adopted by the governmental entity, the model retention schedule, as provided in Section 63G-2-604.

 

Record Copy

The statute isolates the legal requirement for maintaining records to the record copy. The record copy is the official copy. By definition records can be reproduced. Records are duplicated to create reference copies, access copies, working copies, backup copies, and so on, but the requirement of the law is to maintain one record copy.

 

Records Retention Schedules

Record copies of government records are to be retained according to either properly adopted retention schedules or the model retention schedule (Utah Code 63G-2-604(1)). The “model retention schedules” maintained by the State Archives, as defined in law, are commonly called General Retention Schedules.

 

General Retention Schedules

The General Retention Schedules provide descriptions of common record groups, along with pre-approved retention requirements. General schedules are approved by the State Records Committee (SRC) in accordance with Utah Code 63G-2-604(1)(b), and are available for immediate use; they are posted on the Archives website at archives.utah.gov/recordsmanagement/retention-schedules.html.

Some examples of general schedule items are:

 

Series-specific Retention Schedules

When a governmental entity has records that are not described in a General Retention Schedule, or if a governmental entity needs to have a retention period approved that is different than that provided in the General Retention Schedule, then proposed series-specific schedules should be submitted to the State Records Committee for approval. Once the State Records Committee, or other authorized body, approves series-specific retention schedules, they carry the same mandate for compliance as General Retention Schedules. Series-specific retention schedules are also available on the archives website at archives.utah.gov/recordsmanagement/retention-schedules.html.

Note that the retention provided in retention schedules is a requirement and not a guideline.  Utah Code 63G-2-604(1)(b) says, “The governmental entity shall maintain and destroy records in accordance with the retention schedule.” This suggests that the legal requirement is not only to maintain records for the full length of the approved retention period, but also to destroy or transfer records to the State Archives when the approved retention period has expired.