The Local Records Act became law on Aug. 18, 1961, and affects not only drainage districts, but also school districts, municipalities, county agencies, junior colleges, special districts, and townships. Staff limitations in the Local Records Unit of the Office of the Secretary of State, Division of Archives and Records, Records Management Section prevent close monitoring of every unit of government; however, it is Class 4 Felony to dispose of records without the permission of the Illinois Local Records Commission or the Local Records Commission of Cook County.
History of the “Local Records Act”
Before the “Local Records Act”, records management among local units of government had no uniformity. Each unit of local government decided how long to keep its records. Because the officials of each unit of government were elected and changed fairly frequently, many did not even know what records they possessed or where those records were located.
Some looked at old records as a nuisance and either stored them poorly or discarded them. The problems of such a system were obvious, especially in terms of legal considerations, public access, and historical concerns.
The Local Records Act (50 ILCS 205) regulates the preservation or disposal of the public record of all units of Local Government in Illinois. The law’s purpose is to maintain a mechanism for the retention of those records that are necessary for the proper functioning of government, the destruction of obsolete and valueless records, and the archival preservation of those records that have long-term research values but are not necessary for the routine operations of local government. By disposing of useless records and by preserving archival records, valuable storage space can be freed for the ever-increasing quantities of current records, which are vital for the daily business of local officials.
What is a public record under the “Local Records Act”?
“Public record” means any book, paper, map, photograph, digitized electronic material, or other official documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made, produced, executed or received by any agency or officer pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by such agency or officer, or any successor thereof, as evidence of the organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, or other activities thereof, or because of the informational data contained therein.
Extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included within the definition of public record.
(Source: P.A. 89 272, eff. 8 10 95.)
Are faxes, videos, emails, and instant messages records, etc.?
Yes, depending on the information contained in the fax, email or instant message or the information recorded on the dvd, cd, video, or cassette tape. If the information fits the definition above it is a public record subject to the provisions of the “Local Records Act” regardless of the media the data is maintained in.
We no longer maintain records simply on paper or on microfilm. Data can be stored on many types of media including cassette tapes, magnetic tapes, floppy disks, hard-drives, cd’s, dvd’s, “in the cloud”, etc.
Effective January 1, 2001, the Local Records Act (50 ILCS 205) was amended to allow Local Government agencies to reproduce existing public records in a digitized electronic format with the intent to dispose of the original records. This practice is only allowable if the electronic records are reproduced on a “durable medium that accurately and legibly reproduces the original record in all details,” and “that does not permit additions, deletions, or changes to the original document images.”
In addition, the digital records must be “retained in a trustworthy manner so that the records, and the information contained in the records, are accessible and usable for subsequent reference at all times while the information must be retained.” Agencies must remember that any information that was a public record when produced in paper remains a public record when produced or maintained in any digital format, and that any information created as, or converted to, an electronic format is a government asset and must be retained for any period required by law or Local Records Commission regulations.
Each agency is also under the obligation to file a Records Disposal Certificate with the appropriate Local Records Commission before any original record may be disposed of and before the reproduced digital record is disposed of.
How Can I Legally Dispose of Records?
- Each agency must submit an “Application for Authority to Dispose of Local Records” to the appropriate Local Records Commission prior to the destruction of any record. (See sample Application in packet)
- After the Application has been approved by the Local Records Commission it will become your agency’s Records Retention Schedule.
- You can then dispose of records after the minimum retention period listed for each record series is met, provided no litigation is pending or anticipated and providing all audit requirements (local, state, and federal) have been met and after your have submitted and received an approved Local Records Disposal Certificate from the appropriate Local Records Commission.
- Disposal Certificates must be submitted to the Local Records Commission authorizing the destruction at least sixty (60) days before the date the agency wishes to dispose of the records per Section 400.40 of the Illinois Administrative Code.
- Under 720 ILCS 5/32-8. Tampering with public records. A person who knowingly and without lawful authority alters, destroys, defaces, removes or conceals any public record commits a Class 4 felony. (Source: Public Act 77-2638)
- Who prepares the Application? A Local Records Unit field representative from the State Archives will inventory your agency’s records for you at no charge to the agency and submit the Application to the Commission for your agency.
- The Local Records field representative can also prepare your first Local Records Disposal Certificate for you at no charge and explain the procedures for preparing the Disposal Certificate.
- If your agency already has a schedule (Application for Authority to Dispose of Local Records) and would like assistance in completing the Local Records Disposal Certificate, need to have additional record series added to your current application, or need a new application please call our office at (217)782-1080 and ask to have an appointment scheduled with a field representative.
- If you intend to microfilm your records, the Local Records Commission has established standards for microfilming. Copies of the standards for microfilming may be printed out from our web page. If you do not have access to the internet and need copies of the regulations please call our office at (217)782-7075 and ask to have copies mailed to your office.
- If you intend to scan your documents and dispose of the originals, then a Local Records Disposal Certificate must be submitted to our office certifying that your agency has followed the Guidelines for Electronic Records established by the Local Records Commission. For more information visit our website.
Information provided by Gloria Huston, Archival Program Administrator, Illinois State Archives