Records Management from the Top: Governing Bodies and State Agency Heads

1024px-Austin_City_Hall_FrontThis is the last in a series profiling the Who’s Who in Records Management. Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at the Records Management Officer (RMO), records custodians, and records liaisons, who are all very much in the thick of things when it comes to records management.

Today we’re taking a step back from hands-on records management to discuss the duties and responsibilities tasked to governing bodies and state agency heads.

What is a governing body? Who is the state agency head?

Texas laws make it easy to identify a governing body and state agency head. Their identity is described in statute.

A governing body runs a local government. Statutorily, a governing body is “the court, council, board, commission, or other body established or authorized by law to govern the operations of a…” “county, including all district and precinct offices of a county, municipality, public school district, appraisal district, or any other special-purpose district or authority.”[LG Code §§201.003(6)-(7)] These are the folks that make high-level and policy decisions at the county-level and below.

A state agency head is the individual appointed or elected to run an agency with state-wide authority. Statutorily, an agency head is “the appointed or elected official who serves by the state constitution, state statute, or action of the governing body of a state agency as the chief executive and administrative officer of a state agency.”[Gov. Code §441.180(1)] A state agency includes departments, commissions, or boards in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the state government; state university systems; and other enumerated units.[Gov. Code §441.180(9)] These folks run organizations that serve the people of Texas from border to border.

Common Duties

Governing bodies and state agency heads share a number of common records management duties for their respective governments. Each must:

  • Establish by ordinance, order, or directive the records management program for the government;[LG Code §203.021(1); Gov. Code §441.183(1)]
  • Designate the RMO for the government;[LG Code §203.025; Gov. Code §441.184]
  • Facilitate the creation and maintenance of government records to adequately document the government and its activities and to protect the legal and financial rights of the government, the state, and persons affected by the activities of the government;[LG Code §203.021(3); Gov. Code §441.183(2)]
  • Cooperate with TSLAC’s record management surveys;[LG Code §203.021(6); Gov. Code §441.183(5)]
  • Ensure that all records of the government pass to their successor;[LG Code §201.006(a)]
  • Exercise the right of recovery to reclaim government records from private possession if their transfer was not authorized by law.[LG Code §202.005; Gov. Code §441.192]

In a nutshell, governing bodies and state agency heads establish the records management program for all employees to follow, designate someone to administer that program’s day to day operations, and then take other steps as necessary to ensure records are being created, protected, and passed on to continue serving the people of Texas and documenting its history.

Duties of Governing Bodies and Agency Heads Serving as RMO

Local governing bodies and state agency heads who serve as their agency’s RMO have some additional duties. They must:

  • Cause policies and procedures to be created and disseminated to employees which enable them to perform their jobs in conformity with records management laws;[LG Code §203.021(2); Gov. Code §441.184(b)(3)]
  • Facilitate the identification and preservation of permanent and archival government records;[LG Code §203.021(4); Gov. Code §441.186(b)]
  • Facilitate the identification and protection of essential, vital, and confidential government records.[LG Code §203.021(5); Gov. Code §441.183(4)]

Those at the top have records management duties beyond a single vote or memo. Local governing bodies and state agency heads acting as the RMO must ensure records management requirements make into it employee workflows and that crucial records are identified and receive proper resources.

Records Management Duties of the Commissioners Court

The commissioners court is the governing body of a county in Texas. As such, the commissioners court is responsible for the previously discussed duties for non-elective county offices. But they also have duties to the elective offices of the county. Even though they don’t establish it, the court must promote and support an efficient and economic records management program in each elective office and must help those offices create and preserve their records.[LG Code §§203.003(1)-(2)]. The court must also assist each elective office to identify, protect, and preserve permanent and essential records.[LG Code §§203.003(3)-(4)]. To help fund these programs, commissioners courts are authorized to establish records management and preservation funds and to approve expenditures from these funds for records management purposes.[LG Code §§203.003(5)-(6)].