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Records Management

Due to a legislative change, the Data Practices Office no longer handles some of the issues related to official records, records retention schedules, and record disposal. However, data practices issues may arise out of situations involving records management. 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." (See, subdivision 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

Official records required by section 15.17 must be disposed of 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. (See, subdivision 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.”)

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, Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13. For instance, an entity may not be able to respond to a data request properly if official activities have not been recorded. In addition, the Data Practices Act limits collection of data on individuals to only that which is necessary to administer and manage programs authorized by law. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.05, subdivision 3.) It 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." (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 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.

According to the Minnesota State Archives, The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 325L) section on retention of electronic records (section 325L.12) makes the storage medium of a record legally irrelevant. There is no more or less evidentiary value attached to one medium or another.

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.
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