Updates from the Local Government Records Commission: October 4, 2021

The Code of Alabama 1975 § 41-13-21 delegates determining the permanency of local government records in Alabama to the Local Government Records Commission (LGRC). The Commission held its second meeting of 2021 in October via a publicly accessible online teleconference. Governor Kay Ivey’s August 13, 2021 proclamation permitted commissions to meet and establish a quorum electronically considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Read on for an overview of the events of the October 4, 2021 meeting.

Status Updates and Public Comment Period
In addition to the LGRC members and the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) staff, members of “I Vote Madison,” the Alabama League of Women Voters, and unaffiliated citizens attended the virtual meeting. 

At the April 28, 2021 meeting of the LGRC, members of the “I Vote Madison” advocacy group asked that the commission consider a longer retention for recordings of open meetings. Under the current retention period, recordings are conceived only as a step to create minutes and must be kept until meeting minutes have been approved. I Vote Madison contends that extending the recordings’ retention period would increase access and transparency when citizens cannot attend a meeting.

The ADAH’s director, Steve Murray, addressed the research by ADAH Records Management Section following the April 28th meeting regarding the preservation and retention of audiovisual recordings; he announced plans to continue the analysis of recordings in other states and declared intentions to consult with the League of Municipalities and Association of County Commissions about the feasibility of retaining records and promoting transparency.

Records Destruction Incident Reports
Extreme weather events such as thunderstorms and tornados always pose a threat to Alabama communities. In 2021 two such events caused the destruction of local government records and were reported to the Records Management section. The ADAH Records Management Section staff presented reports on these incidents for the LGRC. Twenty-six inches of flooding at the Calera Police Department records storage damaged 25 cubic feet of temporary records. An EF3 tornado struck the Fultondale police department’s off-site storage resulting in the destruction of 80 cubic feet of temporary records. All local government entities should contact the ADAH as soon as possible after any event or disaster that leads to the loss of records so that we can help work through the recovery or legal disposal of records.

Revision to Local RDAS
The LGRC revises and approves Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs). There are several reasons that a local RDA would need to be revised. These revisions may originate with local contacts’ questions, may arise as part of internal ADAH records management review processes, or be mandated by changes in legislation, policy, or other legal instruments either within or affecting the agency. At this time, there are 18 local RDAs, and a revision may apply to all, some, or just one RDA. Here are the revisions approved during the meeting.

Revisions to All or Multiple RDAs

  • “Facilitating Government Accountability Subfunction” (new subfunction)

Citizen oversight boards currently exist in several local governments across the state. The addition of this series is necessary to incorporate any records created by these boards. Because no appropriate existing subfunction encompassed these boards, the “Facilitating Government Accountability” subfunction and its associated records is added to the County Commissions and Municipalities RDAs.

  • “Exposure to Hazardous Substances Compliance Files” (new record series)

This revision addresses records documenting exposures to hazardous materials maintained per U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. This revision applies to the Fire Department and Local Law Enforcement RDAs.

  • “Returned/Undeliverable Correspondence” (new record series)

This new record series was added to County Commissions, County Taxations Offices, and Municipalities RDAs. Local government offices receive a large amount of undeliverable mail. This new record series provides clear guidance on the disposition of these otherwise undocumented temporary records. 

  • “Workers’ Compensation Records” (new record series)

This new series comprises two subseries, “Workers’ Compensation Insurance Claim Files and “Proof of Workers’ Compensation Insurance.” The revision addresses proofs of insurance previously not covered by the RDAs and updates language to reflect the current terminology used in the Code of Alabama 1975. The revision applies to RDAs for County Commissions, Emergency Management Agencies, Fire Departments, Municipalities, Racing Commissions, and Regional Planning Commissions. 

  • “Employment Applications” (revised record series)

This revision standardized wording across all local RDAs and updated the retention of I-9 forms to be consistent with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  • “Records Management Documentation” (revised record series)

Historically, when an RDA was revised, it required the signature of a local official and signed copies were to be retained for ten years. A signature is no longer required for every RDA revision and a digital copy of each revised RDA is routinely posted on the ADAH website. These changes mean that printed copies of RDAs held by local entities are considered duplicates and should only be retained until superseded. This revision addresses the outdated retention across all RDAs. 

Revisions to Boards of Education RDA  

  • “Section 504 Forms and Records” (new record series)

This new series addresses records documenting compliance with Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The retention of these records is set at five years. 

Revisions to County Probate Office RDA

  • “Legal Instruments Not Otherwise Described” (revised record series)

This revision renames the series “Miscellaneous Records” to reflect current archival descriptive practice. In addition to renaming the series, the description was expanded to include additional details about the type of records subject to this series. This series remains permanent. 

  • “Marriage Records and Indices” (revised record series)

The passage of Alabama Act 2019-340 abolished the marriage licensing responsibility of probate judges and replaced it with a responsibility to record marriage certificates. The previous series has expanded to include subseries that ensure that marriage records created under the previous and current systems are retained.

Revisions to Fire Departments RDA

  • “Insurance Coverage Exclusion Notices” (new record series)

 Alabama Act 2019-361 requires supplemental cancer coverage for all career firefighters. This new series addresses the written notices of individual firefighters choosing to decline the supplemental insurance and sets the disposition period as one year after an employee revokes their written statement, retires, or separates from employment. 

Next Meeting

The first LGRC meeting of 2022 will be held on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at the Alabama Department of Archives and History building. Interested individuals are encouraged to attend. 

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