Magazine article Information Management

Calling 9-1-1: Avoiding Disaster Using GARP[R]: Examining an Ohio Supreme Court Case Involving a Public Agency Being Sued for Violation of State Recordkeeping Requirements Provides Valuable Lessons about How Adhering to the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles[R] of Compliance and Availability Can Help Other Organizations Avoid the Expense of This Type of Litigation

Magazine article Information Management

Calling 9-1-1: Avoiding Disaster Using GARP[R]: Examining an Ohio Supreme Court Case Involving a Public Agency Being Sued for Violation of State Recordkeeping Requirements Provides Valuable Lessons about How Adhering to the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles[R] of Compliance and Availability Can Help Other Organizations Avoid the Expense of This Type of Litigation

Article excerpt

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Most records professionals have been asked how to clean up a large collection of records left unmanaged for years or decades. Common examples include abandoned storage locations of physical records, scattered share drives, and pesky backup tapes. The need has never been greater than now for advice about applying good retention practices to clean up unmanaged records and to prevent records from growing out of control.

For large clean-up jobs, follow these steps:

1. Identify official records types within each compilation.

2. Identify and apply the corresponding official retention periods for each record type pursuant to records management policies and schedules.

3. Determine whether there are any additional business needs or legal holds that would warrant further retention of any of the records.

4. Identify how to best segregate records ripe for destruction from those that are not.

5. Dispose of expired records properly.

Proper maintenance and disposition of records begins with a periodic review and clean up of large storage troves of files using certain methods, such as destruction eligibility reports.

It is simple--at least, it is simple for organizations that have a records management program that is in compliance with the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles' (GARP[R]) and is at least somewhat compliant with ARMA International's Information Governance Maturity Model (Maturity Model), which is based on GARP[R]. Organizations without highly rated programs or their elements, such as retention schedules and legal hold procedures, are often stuck in neutral and go nowhere.

Rather than starting from scratch to develop a proper records management program, or at least some of its basic elements, some organizations decide to do nothing and simply continue to incur the storage, retrieval, and litigation costs associated with inappropriate destruction or over-retention. Worse yet, without proper records management they often face more serious repercussions, as an Ohio Supreme Court case aptly illustrates.

Recordkeeping in the News: City of New Philadelphia

In a case that was still pending in the Ohio Supreme Court as this article went to press, the city of New Philadelphia, Ohio, is facing civil forfeiture penalties for not scheduling its records properly for destruction, a problem that easily could have been identified and corrected if its program had been reviewed pursuant to GARP[R]. Although the amount sought has since been reduced, the plaintiff initially sought $4.9 million when the city was unable to produce 20 years' worth of police tapes that recorded daily incoming and outgoing phone calls--including 911 calls--and the police department's radio traffic.

The plaintiffs suit was based on the fact that in Ohio, public state and local governmental offices can destroy records only pursuant to a properly enacted records retention schedule. The state's Public Records Act, Ohio Revised Code Chapter 149, requires cities and other political subdivisions, through local records commissions, to adopt and file with the state formal records retention policies with mandatory retention periods and procedural guidelines for the destruction or disposal of records. The law provides for "aggrieved" individuals to receive $1,000 forfeiture for each record unlawfully destroyed.

However, New Philadelphia failed to properly create a records retention schedule, so when its police department routinely recycled its daily tapes after retaining them for 30 days, it was violating the state's Public Records Act.

Both sides concede that the city should have had a schedule and that the tapes were improperly destroyed. The city's fate now rests on the court's determining 1) whether the plaintiff was really "aggrieved" by the unavailability of the records and 2) exactly how many records were destroyed whether each day's worth of tapes or each physical reel-to-reel tape constituted a record. …

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