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Records Management

Government entities have obligations under Minnesota law to create and preserve certain records. Creation and management of official records are outlined in the Official Records Act and the Records Management Statute. The Data Practices Act classifies and creates rights and obligations surrounding government data, which includes official records.

The Data Practices Office provides technical assistance on questions related to the Data Practices Act, but no longer provides assistance on issues regarding official records and records management. Entities with questions regarding these issues may wish to contact the Minnesota State Archives for assistance. If you are unsure who to contact, please feel free to reach out to the Data Practices Office. The following summarizes the relevant statutory provisions.

  • Official Records Act, Minnesota Statutes section 15.17

    The Official Records Act requires government entities to, "make and preserve all records necessary to a full and accurate knowledge of their official activities." (Minn. Stat. 15.17, subd. 1.) The chief administrative officer of each public agency is responsible for the preservation and care of the agency's records. These records must be passed on to the successors in office so that they can understand why past actions or decisions were made. Records may be kept in any format (e.g., electronic files, paper, photographs, other recordings, etc.).

  • Records Management Statute, Minnesota Statutes section 138.17

    Government entities may only dispose of official records required by section 15.17 according to a records retention schedule. The Records Management Statute requires that each entity keep an inventory of records and a retention schedule approved by both the head of the entity and the records disposition panel. (Minn. Stat. 138.17, subd. 7.) In order to have an official record added to the retention schedule or to determine when an official record not on the schedule must be destroyed, entities must get the approval of the Record Disposition Panel. (See also, Minnesota Statutes, section 138.225, “Prohibition against unauthorized disposal of records; penalty.”)

  • Data Practices Act, Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13

    The Data Practices Act classifies official records and government data, and provides rights for members of the public and data subjects to access data. While the Data Practices Act does not address official records or management responsibilities, certain obligations within the Data Practices Act impact records management.

Records Management and Data Practices

Government entities that fail to create, preserve, and dispose of official records according to the laws above may not be able to meet their obligations under the Data Practices Act. For instance, an entity may not be able to respond to a data request properly if official activities have not been recorded. (See, e.g., Halva v. Minnesota State Colleges & Universities, 953 N.W.2d 496 (Minn. 2021). The Data Practices Act also requires the responsible authority to "keep records containing government data in such an arrangement and condition as to make them easily accessible for convenient use." (Minn. Stat. 13.03, subd. 1.) These two requirements taken with the Official Records Act and the Records Management Statute ensure that data requests can be fulfilled accurately and within the time limits prescribed by the Data Practices Act.

Specific Records Retention Requirements

While the Records Management Statute creates records retention processes, requiring approval of retention schedules from the Records Disposition Panel, some provisions within the Data Practices Act or other state law do create specific retention requirements for certain types of government data: 

Advisory Opinions

  • 05-032: Entities required to have general knowledge of types of data they create and maintains and to make data easily accessible for convenient use.
  • 08-026: Interaction among the Official Records Act, the Records Management Statute, and the Data Practices Act.
  • 10-017: Official activities must be documented and those documents must be made available according to their classification under Chapter 13.

Other Resources

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