Records Management Essentials

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3.10. Destroy records as necessary

An essential part of implementing a records retention program is destroying all records, regardless of format, that have a disposition of destroy when their retention has been met. The retentions stated on retention schedules do not only indicate the minimum amount of time that a record should be kept, they also indicate the point at which a record should be disposed of. If the schedule says “Retain 3 years and then destroy,” then the records should be destroyed after three years.

TIPS for managing the destruction of records:

  • Establish a routine for destroying records (according to an approved retention schedule) as part of your normal course of business.
  • Be clear about who is responsible for the destruction of each copy of the record, and how and when the records will be destroyed.
  • Document the disposal of records, citing the retention schedule which authorized disposal, the date, and the names of persons who disposed of the records. A destruction log can prove invaluable if your records become part of an audit or litigation, but may also simplify the process of responding to GRAMA requests by clarifying whether or not you possess the requested record. A model destruction log can be found on the archives website.

All copies of a record should be destroyed at the same time as the record copy (if it was not done sooner). Since records are state property, a records officer may NOT transfer custody to the private sector in lieu of disposing of them. Paper records should be thoroughly destroyed and should not be recycled. It is important that record information be destroyed in a way that prevents it from being pieced back together. Electronic record information should also be destroyed in a way that precludes retrieval. Consult with your IT department to determine the best process for your agency.

There are situations wherein it is necessary to suspend destruction of a particular record: