City Recordkeeping and Disposal Policy Reviewed
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
In January the Kodiak City Council postponed the second reading of an ordinance that sought to clarify the exclusion of reference and transitory documents from the definition of city records. The ordinance drew a lot of public comment, and rather than vote it down, the council postponed the matter and asked for clarification on the ordinance at a future meeting. It took four months, but the clarification was finally given during last night’s city council work session. City Manager Aimée Kniaziowski explained, along with City Clerk Debra Marlar, what kind of documents the city is talking about.
-- (Work Session 1 :36 “So transitory documents like … end product would be the record.”)
Tom Klinkner is the attorney for the city and helped explain more of
the history behind record definitions and why the city operates this
way. He said there are two Alaska statutes that pertain to record laws –
the State Records Management Act and the Public Records Act, which
oddly enough define public records differently. The variation in these
two statutes was the focal point of a state Supreme Court case two years
During the Sarah Palin administration a citizen called
into question the use of private cell phones to discuss government
affairs. Klinkner said the court was forced to dissect the records
statutes and determine whether or not the cell phone usage would qualify
as public record.
-- (Work Session 2 :46 “In each case there is in the definition a laundry … records to preserve.”)
But then the question turns to what should be preserved in government, and for how long.
-- (Work Session 3 :43 “The best source of guidance for that in Alaska … historical activities .”)
He said it doesn’t state that items should be kept for forensic
purposes. Basically, they shouldn’t be kept so that someone someday
could go back and retrace every single step in a decision making
process. Or, to simplify it even further, not every scrap of paper tied
to every decision is kept.
-- (Work Session 4 :28 “And people often requesting public records … not public records.”)
City Clerk Debra Marlar said council members determine the retention
and destruction schedule of records. She said they are always given a
summary of what’s being destroyed and when. That information is also
provided in an annual records report.
Back the ordinance that was
postponed in January. Reference and transitory documents are the titles
given to the scraps of paper, calendars or memos that float through the
city offices on a daily basis. Current city code doesn’t define them as
a public record, and neither does the state of Alaska. The ordinance
wasn’t adding or eliminating documents, it was actually just rewording
the current code to make the fact that these items aren’t available more
clear. Unfortunately, even that wasn’t clear. The clarification four
months in the making will now revisit the council during a regular
meeting sometime in May.