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Lisa Carricaburu
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New rule would require state agencies to keep correspondence longer

A proposed rule change the State Records Committee is considering would extend from one to seven years the amount of time Utah government agencies are required to keep a particular type of correspondence.

The change would apply to "administrative" letters and emails, or, according to the proposal, "correspondence ... that documents work accomplished, transactions made or actions taken. This correspondence documents the implementation of agency functions rather than the creation of functions or policies."

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The Utah State Archives, which sets state record retention schedules, sought the rule working with the records committee.

Members of the public have until June 12 to comment before the records committee decides at a meeting planned that day whether to adopt it.

Comments may be made at the bottom of a blog post about the rule at recordskeepers.wordpress.com or by sending an email to recordsmanagement@utah.gov, said Rebekkah Shaw of the state archives.

Government correspondence falls into three categories: administrative, executive and transitory, according to Blaine Ferguson, an assistant Utah attorney general newly assigned as full-time government records counsel to the state.

Executive correspondence, "provides unique information relating to the functions, policies, procedures or programs of an agency. These records document executive decisions made regarding agency interests."

Such correspondence must be permanently saved under a rule the records committee already approved.

Transitory correspondence relates to matters of short-term interest between individuals and results in "no final contractual, financial or policy information," according to the rules. "This correspondence does not impact agency functions."

Transitory correspondence needn’t be saved after the administrative need for it ends, Ferguson said.

Administrative correspondence to which the rule under consideration would apply covers essentially everything else.

All types of government correspondence are considered public records that may be released upon request under Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act if a request complies with the act’s provisions.

The records committee earlier this spring considered extending the retention period for administrative records to three years, but after a 30-day comment period on that change , recommended at its May 8 meeting that the retention period be extended to seven years after hearing input from Ferguson’s office and others.

A seven-year retention period would be longer than most statutes of limitation for filing lawsuits, Ferguson said. It would eliminate the possibility that a legal need for documents may arise after the documents had already been destroyed.

At the May 8 meeting, the committee agreed to accept public comments on the change for 30 days.

Comments will be compiled and reported to the committee before it votes on the change at its June 12 meeting, Shaw said.

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