Updates from the Local Government Records Commission: October 28, 2020

The Local Government Records Commission (LGRC) is responsible for determining which local government records have permanent historic value and which may be destroyed after specified periods of time. The Commission meets every April and October to approve revisions to local government Records Disposition Authorities, or RDAs. These documents outline all records that local governments create, identify which records should be preserved permanently, and provide retention requirements for all other records. The LGRC held its regularly scheduled meeting on October 28, 2020. In accordance with Governor Kay Ivey’s proclamation issued on March 18, 2020, the LGRC conducted its October 2020 meeting via a publicly accessible online teleconference. The LGRC’s April 2020 meeting was cancelled due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obsolete Records Destruction

Records Management staff reported on authorized local records destruction. In fiscal year 2020, local governments submitted 663 destruction notices, totaling 53,384.59 cubic feet of obsolete records. The five entities submitting the most notices were (1) Alexander City, (2) the Mobile County Board of Education, (3) the Shelby County Board of Education, (4) the Madison County Board of Education, and (5) the City of Huntsville. Note: Alexander City (in Tallapoosa County) hired a records clerk in FY 2020 who submits destruction notices by the box in accordance with municipal policy, which accounts for the large number of notices from this entity.

The five entities submitting the largest single notices were (1) the City of Tarrant, (2) the Personnel Department of the Baldwin County Commission, (3) Mattie T. Blount High School in Mobile County, (4) the Finance Department of Tarrant City Schools, and (5) the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office. The City of Tarrant is undertaking a city-wide clean-up as they prepare to move to new facilities.

In Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, the quantity of notices processed per year was on track to exceed FY 2019 levels. However, Quarter 3 (March – June) notices were significantly lower than in FY 2019, likely due to interruptions caused by COVID-19. This caused total notices processed in FY 2020 to decrease, though total volume of records destroyed increased due large quantities of records submitted in single notices.

Local Boards of Education accounted for 271 of 663 notices and received permission to destroy 13,626 cubic feet (about 25% of total cubic feet destroyed in FY 2020). Municipalities accounted for another 261 of 663 notices and received permission to destroy 28,801 cubic feet (about 54% of total cubic feet destroyed in FY 2020).

While local governments are not required to destroy obsolete records, doing so allows governments to better focus their limited resources. A coordinated records management program allows agencies to act as responsible stewards of the historic records in their care while streamlining their day-to-day operations. Records Management staff offer free on-site training on records disposal and other records management topics, such as the preservation of permanent records, to local government agencies. To schedule training, contact Rebecca Hebert, State and Local Records Coordinator, at becky.hebert@archives.alabama.gov.

Revised Local RDAs

The LGRC approved fourteen revisions or additions to local government RDAs at the October 2020 meeting. These changes affect the following RDAs:

All or multiple local RDAs

  • “Employer Tax Returns and Related Files” (new record series for all local government agencies)

Employers are required to file and maintain state and federal tax documentation. The new record series encompasses federal forms 1099, monthly state tax returns, and quarterly federal tax returns, and standardizes language about employee tax records across all local RDAs. The records retention requirement derives from the retention ascribed to Federal Form 1099. These records are to be retained for two years following audit.

  • “Facilities/Buildings Safety Plans and Training Files” (new record series for all local government agencies)

Local government agencies create safety plans that document what to do in emergencies such as severe weather conditions. Staff also conduct regular safety drills. The new record series includes safety plans (such as fire evacuation protocols, severe weather plans, and active shooter protocols) and training files (such as fire drills, tornado drills, and bomb threat drills). Safety plans are to be retained until superseded, while training files are to be retained for three years.

  • “Insurance Policies and Claims” (revised record series for all local government agencies)

The record series “Insurance Policies and Claims” was titled and described differently across local government RDAs. The development of a standard, comprehensive record series description broadens the scope of the series and establishes consistency. The record series has three subseries: (1) insurance policies, which are to be retained for ten years after the end of the fiscal year in which the policy was terminated; (2) insurance claims, which are to be retained for two years after the audit period in which the claim was settled; and certificates of liability, which are to be retained until superseded.

  • “Job Recruitment Materials” (revised record series for all local government agencies)

This required retention for this record series was previously dependent on audit, but these records are not subject to audit. The retention is two years after the position is filled.

  • “Budgeting Records” (revised record series for County Commissions and Municipalities)

The record subseries titles and descriptions are revised to encompass circumstances in which local governments, especially municipal and county governments, receive budget requests from non-profit organizations or other entities not affiliated with the government. Budget estimates and requests are to be retained for two years following audit. Approved annual budgets are to be maintained permanently.

  • “Job Classifications and Pay Plans” (revised record series for County Commissions and Municipalities)

This record series is expanded to include records produced during the position reclassification process, such as personnel surveys, correspondence, and related materials. Additionally, the record series is revised so as to not dictate which county or municipal department must hold job classification and pay plan master files. Master copies of job classifications and pay plans are to be retained permanently. Copies held by other county departments are to be retained until four years after the position is reclassified. Job reclassification surveys, correspondence, and related materials are likewise to be retained until four years after the position is reclassified.

  • “Rental Agreements and Related Records” (new record series for County Commissions and Municipalities)

Some local governments rent the usage of publicly owned real estate and/or facilities to other entities such as nonprofit organizations and private corporations. This new record series encompasses rental agreements governing the usage of public property, annual insurance verifications submitted to local governments, and other related files. These records are to be retained for two years after the agreement expires.

911 Emergency Communications Districts

Alabama’s 911 Emergency Communication Districts answer 911 calls within a county or municipality and dispatch emergency assistance (such as police, fire, and emergency medical services).  

  • “911 Communication Records” (revised record series)

This record series is expanded to include 911 communications by methods other than telephone calls, such as text messages.  Recorded information that becomes part of case file is to be retained until the final disposition of all cases for which recording provides evidence, while recorded information that does not become part of a case file is to be retained for six months.

Local Boards of Education

Alabama’s local boards of education offer a free public education to every Alabama child in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade.

  • “Accreditation Reports” (revised record series)

This record series is expanded to include internal documentation prepared by a school district during the accreditation process, such as meeting notes, memoranda, and other documentation created as each school undergoes re-accreditation. Records documenting the local school re-accreditation process are to be retained permanently. Interim reports prepared during the five-year accreditation period are to be retained until the next five-year report is issued. Internal documentation is likewise to be retained until the next five-year report is issued.

  • “Parent or Guardian Authorization/Permission Files” (revised record series)

The scope of this record series is expanded to include documentation of parent/guardian authorization for purposes other than field trips or school-related activities, such as media release forms. All documentation of parent or guardian authorization/permission is to be retained until one year after the conclusion of the activity.

  • “School Food Establishment Inspection Records” (new record series)

The inspection and regulation of food service facilities in Alabama is conducted by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the county health departments. Like other food service facilities, Alabama schools are required to maintain food service permits onsite and to undergo regular inspections. Original inspection records are retained by ADPH and/or county health departments. Records which document the school’s compliance with food service facility regulations promulgated by ADPH are to be retained until superseded.

  • “Student Activities Working Files” (new record series)

The Local Boards of Education RDA currently contains the permanent record series “Student Activities History Files.” These records offer historical documentation of student clubs and organizations, events, publications, contests and competitions, elections, sports, and cultural activities. Examples include newspaper clippings, student newspapers, yearbooks, photographs, video and audiotapes, meeting minutes, programs, and publicity materials. The addition of the record series “Student Activities Working Files” more clearly distinguishes draft or component materials such as notes, text, designs, graphics, and photographs, which are to be retained for useful life.

  • “Student Attendance Records” (new record series)

Schools are required to compile attendance data and reports as part of state and/or federal requirements. These records were previously encompassed by several record series under the subfunction “Documenting Student Attendance.” Beyond state and/or federal requirements, schools may document student attendance on a daily, monthly, or other periodical basis. The new record series more clearly encompasses periodic attendance records produced by public schools. Records documenting student attendance as required by the Alabama State Department of Education (that are not specified elsewhere in the RDA) are to be retained for five years. Other student attendance records (that are not specified elsewhere in the RDA) are to be retained until the end of the school year.

Local Law Enforcement Agencies

Local law enforcement agencies prevent, control, and reduce crime; enforce criminal law and apprehend criminals; monitor the activities of the courts and related agencies having criminal jurisdiction; and ensure public safety.

  • “Bench Warrants and Subpoenas (law enforcement copies)” (revised record series for Local Law Enforcement Agencies)

This record series is expanded to include not only subpoenas for documents to be produced, but also for subpoenas of witnesses to testify. Law enforcement agencies may receive copies of these subpoenas when assisting the courts in their enforcement. The scope of the series is expanded to civil cases in addition to criminal cases. The records retention requirements are unchanged: executed warrants and subpoenas are to be retained until the final disposition of the case, while unexecuted warrants and subpoenas are to be retained until executed or recalled by the appropriate court. After ten years, law enforcement agencies should ask the court to review unexecuted warrants and subpoenas.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Local Government Records Commission will be held on April 28, 2021.

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