Compliance 101 for Local Governments: Designating a Records Management Officer

Compliance Blue Marker

After making sure a records management policy is approved and on file with us at the state library, it’s important to also provide documentation designating the person who will act as the Records Management Officer (RMO).

Maybe you’ve attended one of our trainings recently and realized that your local government does not have an RMO on file with us at TSLAC. Or maybe somebody told you that you are now the RMO for your local government, and you need to let us know. This blog post is going to walk you through the process of filling out the paperwork – but it will also tell you what we look for when we get that paperwork.

What does being an RMO mean?

If you are the designated RMO for your government, that usually means that you are overseeing the records management program for your government. What does that entail? If you’re an elected official, Section 203.002 of the Local Government Records Act outlines your responsibilities, while Section 203.023 is for all other non-elected officials.

At a minimum, the RMO is the person who assists in establishing policies governing records management, administers the records management program, and signs all the records management paperwork that is sent to TSLAC. Other records management tasks might be delegated to other members of your staff. On the other end of the spectrum, an RMO might be signing all the paperwork and doing all the records management work.

Elected County Officials

In the law, Section 203.001 states: “Each elected county officer is the records management officer for the records of the officer’s office.” So, if you used Policy Model 1 as your Records Management Policy, then you have already designated an RMO: either yourself or the county RMO.

If you, the county official, choose to be the RMO, then we ask that you submit the top half of form SLR 504 to update your contact information. If you’ve designated a countywide RMO to manage the records in your office, then there is no need to submit an SLR 504 — that will be the county RMO’s responsibility.

All Other Local Governments

If you are not an elected official, then only the governing body of your government can designate your RMO, as stated in Section 203.025 of the LGRA. Additionally, your policy should already address who your RMO is – it should either designate an officer/position or an individual as your RMO. (Don’t have a policy? Check out Compliance 101 – Records Management Policy).

Designating a Position as RMO

We highly recommend that local governments use their policy to designate a position as the RMO, not an individual. For example, in a small municipality using Policy Model 3 as a template, the City Council might adopt a version of the policy that states: “The City Secretary, and successive holders of said office, will serve as records management officer for the City of Waterloo.” Then, once adopted, each new City Secretary would just need to file an SLR 504 form within 30 days of assuming the position so that we know the name and contact information of the individual serving as the RMO.

So, having the City Council designate the position of City Secretary as RMO means that no further City Council action will ever be needed, unless it wants to change the position of RMO — in which case a new policy is necessary.

What if we want a new position to be the RMO?

Let’s say the Waterloo City Council decides that the whole “City Secretary being RMO” thing isn’t working out.  Instead, they want the office of City Manager to be the RMO.  Well, it’s not as simple as the City Manager submitting an SLR 504. The City Council would actually have to adopt a new policy, or amend their existing policy, that states that the City Manager is now the RMO. And the City would need to file a copy of that new policy, with minutes showing that the policy was approved, per LGRA Section 203.025(b).

What if the title of the RMO’s position changes?

Now, let’s think about the Waterloo Independent School District.  What if the district decides to change the title of the Office Manager (who serves as the RMO) to Business Manager — the same job, just with a new name? Is a new policy or SLR 504 required?  Well, it’s helpful for us to receive some kind of notification of the new title, and the SLR 504 would be the logical way to do that.  But, an email is also fine.  No policy change is required.

Designating an Individual (not a position) as RMO

Let’s say that instead of designing the office of Business Manager as RMO, Waterloo ISD wants to name an individual as RMO. There are a couple of ways to do this.

  • The School Board could name a specific individual in its policy. It might say something like “Jeff Smith, Business Manager, will serve as records management officer for Waterloo ISD.” This is our least favorite way for you to appoint an RMO. Because when Jeff leaves his position, the Board will have to submit an entirely new policy, or an amendment to the policy, including approval documentation, just to tell us who the RMO is.
  • The policy can state that a non-specific individual will be the RMO. In that case, the policy will say, “The Board shall designate an individual to serve as records management officer for Waterloo ISD.” However, again, that means that each time the RMO leaves his or her position, the Board has to convene and approve this person as RMO, and we need to have proof of that action.

The SLR 504

Section 2 of the SLR 504

When we receive these forms, the first thing we check is this: Does the “Position Designated in [the Records Management] Policy” (item #2) actually match the position that your local government has filed as its Records Management Officer its records management policy?

For example, if your policy says that the Mayor will serve as RMO, but your 504 is telling us that your City Secretary is the RMO – that’s a problem. The “Position Designated in Policy” has to be the position your governing body designated as the RMO in its policy.

Do I have to use the SLR 504?

No. The SLR 504 is our preferred means of updating RMO information, but if you would rather not use the form, you can always send us a letter stating who your new RMO is. Please include the RMO’s contact information.

Can the RMO designate someone else?

No. An RMO cannot confer the office of RMO onto somebody else. For example, if a school district states in its policy that Superintendent Jane Doe will serve as RMO, Jane Doe cannot then name a different individual or office as RMO and have that person sign the district’s records management paperwork. Even if Jane Doe isn’t actually doing any records management work, if she is on file as the RMO, we still need her signature on the relevant paperwork. The Superintendent does not have the authority to designate an RMO because, as stated in LGRA Section 203.025(a), only the governing body of a local government can designate a records management officer.

If you have any other questions about designating an RMO, we are here to help! You can find your analyst, email or call 512-463-7610.