Monday, February 8, 2016
https://plus.google.com/+aldotcom/videosWhat Are the Records Responsibilities of Public Officials? Records responsibilities derive from state and federal law and regulations, court decisions, Attorney General’s opinions, professional practices, and the administrative need to document decision making. These obligations affect the creation, maintenance, accessibility, and disposition of all public records. An effective system of records administration improves an agency’s overall accountability and helps to ensure that its records will be legally admissible in court. Public officials are legally obligated to create and maintain records that adequately document the business of their agencies. Government records provide evidence of agency operations, document government and private rights and obligations, and serve as a mechanism of accountability. Therefore, public officials are responsible for ensuring that their records–in whatever storage medium (paper, microfilm, magnetic tape, digital optical disks, or compact disks)–are usable for as long as necessary to satisfy the record-keeping requirements set forth in state or local government RDAs. The Code of Alabama 1975 contains two chapters that address the general responsibilities of public officials for the care and handling of records they create. Title 36, Chapter 12, and Title 41, Chapter 13, charge public officials to meet the following obligations: # to create and maintain records that provide full and detailed information regarding the office’s business and activities (Section 36-12-2); # to protect and preserve records from mutilation, loss, or destruction (Section 36-12-2); # to transfer to one’s successors in office all current records pertaining to its business affairs or transactions (Section 36-12-4); # to contact the Alabama Department of Archives and History when records pertaining to the conduct of office business cease to be current (Section 36-12-5); # to keep the office’s books, records, and accounts, and to make reports, in accordance with procedures and forms prescribed by the Chief Examiner of Public Accounts for audit purposes (Section 41-5-23). Almost every agency of state or local government has further record-keeping obligations specific to the records it creates. Additional requirements may be set forth in the Code of Alabama, legislative acts, or mandates from state or federal oversight authorities. Besides their general records responsibilities, therefore, public officials must educate themselves to perform these special duties. 3 More information on a wide variety of records matters is provided by Attorney General’s opinions, which provide specific cases of the Attorney General’s interpretation of the law. While clarifying the law for public officials, these opinions do not carry the force of law themselves. For opinions on a particular records issue, contact the ADAH Government Records Division or the Office of the Attorney General at (334)242-7300; website www.ago.state.al.us.