Records Retention Management

A good records management plan requires a lot of education and hard work. As the records custodian of your city, you must inventory, organize, maintain, archive, and delete records according to the city’s records retention schedule.

Records Management Plan

All local governments are required by state law to have an adopted records management plan which includes:

  • The designation of a records manager to coordinate and perform the responsibilities of the plan
  • An approved records retention schedule
  • Provisions for the maintenance and security of the records

Most local governments have adopted the state recommended records retention schedule for local governments. This schedule is reviewed every two years by the Georgia Archives Division and updated accordingly.

Search the Georgia Archives website’s local government records retention schedule database.

View portions of the State Records Management Act in GMA’s publication, Government in the Sunshine: A Guide to Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records Laws for Municipal Officials.

Common Record Categories
The Retention Schedules for Local Government points out common and specific categories that apply to cities. Common categories that apply to all agencies include:

  • Accounting
  • Administration
  • Administrative Support
  • Audits
  • Budgeting
  • Information Technology
  • Legal
  • Payroll
  • Personnel
  • Property
  • Records Management

Local Government-Specific Record Categories
Some record categories are specific only to local government and include:

  • Building
  • Cemetery
  • Courts—Municipal
  • Education
  • Elections
  • Health Services
  • Library / Archives / Museums
  • Medical Examiner
  • Planning and Zoning
  • Public Safety
  • Public Works
  • Taxation
  • Tourism and Recreation
  • Transportation

The Georgia State Archives Division notes a few guidelines that apply to all records.

  • The state’s local government records retention laws serve as your city’s minimum requirements. Your city can hold records for longer if it wishes, but it cannot lessen the amount of time it holds them as established by the state’s recommended retention plan.
  • Records retention laws apply under “normal business conditions.” According to state law, you need to keep records related to litigation or other special administrative needs for as long as that circumstance requires.
  • Your city must protect vital records with an offsite disaster recovery plan. According to Georgia code, vital records are “any record vital to the resumption or continuation of operations, or both; to the re-creation of the legal and financial status of government in the state; or to the protection and fulfillment of obligations to citizens of the state.” State law requires an offsite data backup and disaster recovery plan in case a disaster threatens physical or electronic vital records.
  • For historical purposes, some records must be shared with the Georgia Archives when they are no longer used by the city.
  • Do not destroy any records unless this activity is covered under your city’s adopted records retention schedule. Proper documentation is critical when destroying records. Make sure it’s absolutely clear how your city uses, creates, deletes, destroys, archives and retrieves documents.

HB 976 – 2016 Legislative session modifies the retention schedule for law enforcement surveillance cameras, body worn cameras and in-car cameras.  The bill mandates retention for 180 days except when such recordings capture; an arrest, use of force by an officer, or vehicular accident, which must be stored for 30 months.  If there are other investigations or pending litigation, the recording must be kept through final adjudication.  Local governments nor law enforcement agencies will have the duty to redact or obscure people or objects in the recording and shall not bare any civil liability for such depictions.  The bill also establishes a $10.00 fee for providing copies of video recordings.

Records Management Training

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government offers records management as a required course for the Clerks Certification Program. This course is an absolute must for city clerks. Go the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to find out more information.

The Georgia Records Association offers a Records Management Professional Certificate Program for its members.

As you develop your experience in records management, you can find other resources on the Georgia Archives website where the state also offers onsite assistance in reviewing your records management operations. City Clerks find this resource incredibly useful and we highly recommend it.