Compliance 101 for Local Governments: Records Management Policy

ComplianceA records management policy is the first step to ensuring compliance with the The Local Government Records Act (LGRA). It’s where your government states in a plan/policy/order/resolution that it will ensure the efficient and effective control of those records. It’s also where you designate what position or person will serve as your records management officer.

Looking at the requirements in the law and translating that language to your own policy can definitely be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created four different policy models/templates that you can use, depending on what type of government you are. Each policy includes the language necessary to show that your government is complying with the law. But which policy model should you use?

Elected Officials

If you are an elected county official, you can use Policy Model 1 – Records Management Policy Statement for an Elected County Official. This form tells us who will be responsible for records management in your office: you, or the countywide records manager? By law, an elected county official is the Records Management Officer (RMO) for his or her office, but the official can choose to designate a countywide RMO (a position designated by the Commissioners Court) to oversee records management for his or her office.

All Other Non-elected Offices

If you are a county or a large local government, then we recommend Policy Model 2 – Suggested Policy Model for Establishing a Records Management Program by Ordinance, Order, or Resolution. This is our most detailed policy model, reflective of the operations of larger organizations. It will include responsibilities of departmental records liaison officers, for example, as well as provisions for records storage centers.

If you’re a small municipality, then Policy Model 3 – Suggested Policy Model for Establishing a Records Management Program by Ordinance in a Small Municipality — is for you. This policy is similar to Policy Model 2, but does not include references to records liaison officers, storage centers, or a records management committee.

And Policy Model 4 is recommended for any other small local governments. This is a pretty bare-bones policy statement, acknowledging that the records of your government are public property and you will adhere to applicable records management laws.

Governing Body Approval

If you are not an elected official, then you must show that your governing body has adopted your policy (Section 203.026). Section 201.003 of Local Government Code provides the following definition: ” ‘Governing body’ means the court, council, board, commission, or other body established or authorized by law to govern the operations of a local government. In those instances in which authority over an office or department of a local government is shared by two or more governing bodies or by a governing body and the state, the governing body, for the purposes of this subtitle only, is the governing body that provides most of the operational funding for the office or department.”

Some typical governing bodies include:

  • County:  Commissioners’ Court
  • Municipality:  City Council, Town Council, City Commission
  • School District:  Board of Trustees / School Board
  • Appraisal District:  Board of Directors

There are a few ways you can show the approval by the governing body. Some governments add language to the policy itself indicating that the policy was approved by the governing body, along with a signature and/or seal. Others submit the minutes of the meeting in which the policy was approved.  Others attach a signed letter to the policy stating that the governing body approved the policy. Basically, we don’t have an established rule about how to show your governing body’s approval – but we do need some type of documentation showing that your governing body has indeed adopted the policy.

Drafting Your Own Policy

You are not limited to our templates—you can also craft your own policy. If you decide to go that route, just make sure that your policy covers all the elements required by the Local Government Records Act.

If you are an elected county official, Section 203.005 requires that your policy covers the duties and responsibilities of elected county officials as Records Management Officers (as set forth in Section 203.002).

If you are a non-elected official, Section 203.026 requires that your policy covers the:

  • Duties and responsibilities of governing body (as set forth in Section 203.021)
  • Duties and responsibilities of records custodians (as set forth in Section 203.022)
  • Duties of Records Management Officers (as set forth in Section 203.023)

When do I need to submit a policy?

Finally, whether or not you’re an elected official, the policy – or any amendments to the policy – should be filed with us within 30 days of the policy’s or amendment’s adoption. You also need to make sure you file your policy before you send us your RMO designation form or your records control schedule/declaration of compliance. We can’t process those items unless we know that you have a records management policy that has been approved by your governing body.

Next Steps

Once a policy for your local government’s records program is on file with TSLAC, it’s time to make sure we have up-to-date contact info for the Records Management Officer and documentation of a retention decision.

As always you can email us at slrminfo@tsl.texas.gov, call 512-463-7610 or find your analyst.

 

One thought on “Compliance 101 for Local Governments: Records Management Policy

  1. Thank you Marianna for the thoughtful and detailed post. Given the vital nature of official records and the trust placed in records managers, compliance is one of the critical components of this role, along with managing security and access. In the private realm, compliance concerns often revolve around regulatory requirements and minimizing litigation risks. In government, compliance also relates to core issues of public trust.

    Also, congratulations on The Texas Record being named one of the top regional records management blogs of 2014 (details here: http://recordsmanagement.tab.com/records-management-2/top-records-and-information-management-blogs-part-4/). Nice work!

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