FAQ: Who is the custodian of this record?

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Take a moment to think about the business activities of your state or local government. What examples come to mind for times when there might be more than one custodian for the same record? In such a case, what policies and procedures does your government have in place to find the answers to questions about the custodianship of a record?

If you are ever unsure whether you or another department or agency is the custodian of a record, know that it is possible for you and the other department or agency to be the custodians of the same record. How so?

If the following criteria are met, there will be more than one custodian:

  • The message qualifies as a record.
  • The recipient needs to act based on the information received.
  • The information received is needed for the documentation of an action or government business transactions.

Case Sampling

The following examples further illustrate such a situation:

  1. Let us say a municipal authority requests a report from a river authority, and the river authority begins an assessment and reports the results to the municipal authority. Who do you think is responsible for retaining the report?

    In this case they both are responsible. While the river authority gathers information and gives it to other institutions, each one of the institutions involved in these public business interactions must retain their own record copies. In other words, the river authority must keep the report it gave to its business contacts, and those same contacts must keep the report they received from the river authority. The difference here is that each of the entities involved will use the record for different functions, and they will retain it according to its appropriate retention period based on how they use the record. For example, the river authority will probably use local schedule UT, record series UT5025-08, for its copy of the report, and the municipal authority will probably use local schedule GR, GR1000-41a:
Record NumberRecord TitleRecord DescriptionRetention PeriodRemarks
UT5025-08REPORTS TO REGULATORY AUTHORITIESPeriodic monitoring, financial, and operational reports submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, or other agencies and local governments as required by law or regulation on the collection, treatment, and disposal of wastewater and for monitoring the quality of any water in the state.  
UT5025-08aREPORTS TO REGULATORY AUTHORITIESPeriodic reports compiled and submitted on less than an annual basis. 3 years 
UT5025-08bREPORTS TO REGULATORY AUTHORITIESAnnual and biennial reports or special reports ordered or required by a regulatory authority. PERMANENT 
GR1000-41aREPORTS AND STUDIES (NON-FISCAL)Annual, sub-annual, or irregularly prepared reports, performance audits, or planning studies submitted to the governing body or chief administrative officer of a local government or by the local government to a state agency, as may be required by law or regulation, on the non-fiscal performance of a department, program, or project or for planning purposes, including those prepared by consultants under contract with a local government, except documents of similar types noted in this or other commission schedules. Retention Note: Review before disposal; some records may merit PERMANENT retention for historical reasons.
  (1) Annual reports.PERMANENT 
  (2) Special reports or studies prepared by order or request of the governing body or considered by the governing body (as reflected in its minutes) or ordered or requested by a state agency or a court.PERMANENT 
  (3) Special reports or studies prepared by order or request of the chief administrative officer.5 years 
  (4) Monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, or semi-annual reports.3 years 
  (5) Working papers and raw data used to create any report for (1) and (2) above.3 years 
  (6) Working papers and raw data used to create any report for (3) and (4) above.1 year 
  1. A school district submits an accreditation report to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to show its course of action to improve its program. Seeing that the TEA did not create the report, do you think it has any responsibility for retaining it? Would the school district have any retention responsibilities for the report once it is sent off to the TEA to handle?

    It is true that even though the school district is the originator, and the TEA is the recipient, both of them will need to retain their own record copy of the same report, which serves a different purpose for each of them. Knowing this, the school district will need to retain their copy of the accreditation report under local schedule SD, SD3425-01a, and the TEA will need to retain their copy of the same report according to their agency’s retention schedule, under Agency Item Number (AIN) 701.361:
Record Number/ AINRecord TitleRecord DescriptionRetention PeriodRemarks
701.361ACCREDITATION DOCUMENTATIONDocuments reflecting accreditation status and compliance with improvement measureAC+10 (AC=End of school year) 
SD3425-01aACCREDITATION REPORTS      Reports to the Texas Education Agency on accreditation planning or the self-monitoring of progress toward the achievement of goals.AV after subsequent accreditation 
  1. Via email, a supervisor counsels an employee on a work-related matter, and the employee subsequently files a discrimination complaint. Who do you think is responsible for retaining that original email?

    Custodianship for email messages can fall on more than one person or entity. For the above situation, you would be right to say that the sender, the recipient, and now the Human Resources (HR) department will need to retain a copy of that email most likely. Using the local schedules as an example, the supervisor will need to retain that email under local schedule GR, GR1050-06a; the employee will need to retain it under GR1000-26b, and the HR department will probably retain it under GR1050-16c.
Record NumberRecord TitleRecord DescriptionRetention PeriodRemarks
GR1050-06aCOUNSELING PROGRAM RECORDSReports of interviews, analyses, and similar records relating to the counseling of an employee for work-related, personal, or substance abuse problems, including any warnings associated with the counseling. Usually maintained at the supervisory level or by human resources departments.3 years after termination of counseling.Retention Note: For records retained by professional therapists; refer to Local Schedule HR for patient records
GR1000-26bCORRESPONDENCE, INTERNAL MEMORANDA, AND SUBJECT FILES      General – Incoming/outgoing and internal correspondence pertaining to the regular operation of the policies, programs, services, or projects of a local government. May also include subject files, which are collections of correspondence, memos and printed materials on various individuals, activities, and topics2 yearsRetention Note: Records management officers should use caution before disposal of these records to ensure the records should not be classified under administrative correspondence (GR100- 26a).
GR1050-16cEQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY RECORDS AND REPORTSCase files relating to discrimination complaints, including complaints, legal and investigative documents, exhibits, related correspondence, withdrawal notices, and decisions or judgments.Resolution of case + 3 years. 

Main Takeaway

The examples provided above only scratch the surface of how intertwined different individuals, units, local governments, and agencies can be, and while their retention schedules, record series, and retention periods may differ, each may need to keep a record copy of the same document for different reasons. Your local government may not have created a particular form, but it may still be a custodian if it has a part to play in its completion as an associate entity that may even collect payment for its joint role. If your government or agency creates or receives a record, and if it uses the record to carry out public business, it must retain the record, which cannot be destroyed or transferred before the expiration of its retention period. Once more, regardless of who the originator is, multiple entities may collaborate and share responsibility for the retention of some of the same records in the conduct of public business.

Policy Tip

How else do you think your records management procedures could be developed? If your procedures would benefit from having a section on custodianship, consider adding something similar to the following for a start:

How to Assign a Record Series/Retention Period to a Record that Involves Multiple Entities
If two or more units, departments, local governments, or agencies use the same record:

  • Identify the function that the record serves for your entity.
  • Pinpoint the appropriate record series in your entity’s retention schedule based on the functions that were identified.
  • The appropriate record series and retention periods may differ for each entity.

The related topics below can also be used to prompt the revision of any other parts of your records management procedures that need an update: 

  1. FAQ Redux: How long do I keep email?
  2. FAQ: Are text messages records? (redux)
  3. FAQ: How Does S.B. 944 Affect Us?
  4. FAQ: Can I destroy a paper original after scanning?
  5. FAQ: Do I have to keep copies of records I produced to fulfill a public information request?
  6. Electronic Record Policy Development Resources

Share your thoughts and comments on this topic below.

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2 thoughts on “FAQ: Who is the custodian of this record?

  1. I might suggest refining this post just a little bit to further explain that multiple local governments, state agencies or departments within these, cold be retaining the same record for different periods of time because the records are filed under different RECORD SERIES. Because they are using the records for different FUNCTIONS, the records are in different RS, and therefore the retention periods could be different. While it’s true that the function determines the retention, isn’t it more true that the RS determines the retention? Thanks!

  2. Hello, Sheila. Thank you very much for your comment. You’ve given us a really good idea for another blog post! We really appreciate your time and feedback. Thank you :-)

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