Number: 230-02

Effective Date:






Staff Contact:

Jason Seth

Approved By:


The records management policy provides requirements and guidelines for the creation, maintenance, storage, use, and disposition of City of Renton records. The policy is designed to:

•    Facilitate and sustain day-to-day operations.

•    Support predictive activities such as budgeting and planning.

•    Assist in answering questions about past decisions and activities.

•    Demonstrate and document compliance with laws, regulations, and standards.


This policy applies to all City of Renton employees, officials, and volunteers and all City of Renton records, regardless of format.


•    RCW 40.10, Protection of Essential Records

•    RCW 40.14, Preservation and Destruction of Public Records

•    RCW 42.56, Public Records Act

•    Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

•    GARP (Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles)

•    ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 15489: 2001

•    Resolution No. 4235, Designating the Public Records Officer

•    Policy & Procedure Nos.:

o    100-05, Public Records Act

o    (in revision) 210-15, Email System

o    240-06, Internet Access and Use

o    250-14, Procurement, Management, and Usage of Cell Phones, PDAs, Pagers, and Other Personal Electronic Devices

o    250-15, Computer, Server, Printer, Networking Devices and Other Technology

o    250-16, Electronic Data Security

•    WAC 434-622, Preservation of Electronic Public Records

•    WA Secretary of State- Local Government Retention Schedule


4.1    Active Record: An active record is used in an office on a routine basis and accessed at least several times per year. Active records are usually kept on-site.

4.2    Archival (Appraisal Required) Record: Public records with archival (appraisal required) designation are records which may possess enduring legal and/or historic value and must be appraised by Washington State Archives on an individual basis. Records not selected for retention by Washington State Archives may be disposed of after appraisal.

4.3    Archival (Permanent Retention) Record: Public records with archival (permanent retention) designation are records which possess enduring legal and/or historic value and must not be destroyed. These records need to either be transferred to Washington State Archives or retained and preserved according to archival best practices until such time as they are transferred to Washington State Archives.

4.4    Born Digital: A record originally created as an electronic record. Born-digital records consist of the digital file along with its metadata and any embedded attachments. Paper records that have been digitized or any other records converted into digital format are not considered born-digital.

4.5    Essential Record: Essential records are those the City must have in order to maintain or resume business continuity following a disaster. While the retention requirements for essential records may range from very short-term to archival, these are records necessary to resume core functions following a disaster. Security backup of these public records should be created and may be deposited with Washington State Archives.

4.6    Inactive Record: A record used or accessed in an office infrequently or no longer used in the conduct of current business, but still required to be kept by the retention schedule for legal or historical purposes. Inactive records are usually stored off-site.

4.7    Non-Archival Records: Public records which do not possess sufficient historic value to be designated as “Archival.” The City must retain these records for the minimum retention period specified by the current records retention schedule.

4.8    Non-Essential Records: Public records which are not required in order for an agency to resume its core functions following a disaster.

4.9    Obsolete: Public records which are no longer relevant to any current program or primary functional responsibilities of a department or office.

4.10    Primary Records: The original record (whether created or received by the agency) which serves as the official record, and must be retained in accordance with the current records retention schedule.

4.11    Public Record: As defined in RCW 40.14.100 “…The term “public records” shall include paper, correspondence, completed form, bound record book, photograph, film, sound recording, map drawing, machine-readable material, compact disc meeting current industry ISO specifications, or other document regardless of physical form or characteristics, and including such copies thereof, that have been made or received by any agency of the State of Washington in connection with the transaction of public business…”

RCW 42.56.020 defines a public record as “…any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics…”

If there is a conflict in the two definitions, the City, subject to legal review, will apply the broadest definition.

4.12    Records Disposition: Actions taken with records when they are no longer required to be retained by the agency. Possible disposition actions include transfer to archives, and destruction.

4.13    Retention Schedule: A schedule that lists and assigns a minimum length of time each record series will be retained by the agency, whether the record is designated essential, archival, or potentially archival, and final disposition of the record. It is approved for all local government agencies or particular types of agencies by the Washington State Local Records Committee.

4.14    Secondary Records: Copies (or duplicates) of the agency’s primary records.

4.15    Text Messages (SMS): Short Message Services (SMS) is an electronic message sent over a cellular network from one cell phone to another by typing words, often in shortened form, on the phone’s numeric or QWERTY keypad. SMS is a communications protocol allowing the interchange of short text messages between mobile telephone devices. (For supplemental information on Text Messages as Public Records, please see Exhibit B.)

4.16    Text Messages (MMS): Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) is a standard way to send messages that include multimedia content (graphics, photos, audio clips, video clips, or any combination thereof) to and from mobile phones. It extends the core SMS (Short Message Service) capability that allowed exchange of text messages only up to 160 characters in length. (For supplemental information on Text Messages as Public Records, please see Exhibit B.)

4.17    Transitory Records: Transitory records are records that are temporary, short-term in nature, that hold no administrative, legal, fiscal, historical, or archival value, and are not needed as evidence of a business transaction and/or are not covered by a more specific records series on the retention schedule. Examples include secondary copies, drafts, general office announcements, general information, working copies, transmittal memos, meeting announcements, scheduling and/or calendaring information.

4.18    Transmittal Form: The form to be used for the transference of records to the City Clerk Division for placement in storage. (See Exhibit A.)


The City of Renton recognizes the importance of orderly records management to carry out its mission and the responsibilities required by RCW 40.14 and RCW 42.56. An effective records management program ensures that records necessary for the effective functioning of City business are systematically controlled from creation through use, storage, retrieval and/or disposition.

5.1    Responsibilities and Authorities

5.1.1    Public Records Officers (PRO): The City Clerk, or designee, is the designated Public Records Officer and oversees citywide records management. The PRO advises departments on records retention, disposition, and public disclosure, and provides records management training.

5.1.2    Records Coordinators: Department Administrators designate Records Coordinators to assist the City Clerk Division with records management compliance. Records Coordinators also assist individual departments with day-to-day management of department records and their fulfillment of the City’s Policy & Procedure 100-05 – Public Records Act.

5.1.3    City Staff: All employees create and use public records as part of his or her regular job duties and are responsible for following this policy as well as associated guidelines and procedures. Failure to meet the responsibilities of this policy may result in disciplinary action.

5.2    Legal Holds and Public Records Requests: Records involved in litigation or reasonably anticipated or foreseeable litigation will be placed on legal hold and must be preserved through the duration of the hold. Legal holds shall be issued and released by the City Attorney’s Office. If a record(s), including transitory record(s), responsive to a public records request is scheduled for destruction, the record(s) must be retained until the request is fulfilled. (See Policy & Procedure No.100-05, Public Records Act.)

5.3    Indexing of Records: The City finds that maintaining an index as provided in RCW 42.56.070(3) for use by the public would be unduly burdensome and would interfere with agency operations given the high volume, various locations and types of public records received, generated or otherwise acquired by the City.

The City is comprised of numerous departments, their divisions and subdivisions, many if not all of which maintain separate databases and/or systems for the indexing of public records, and because each department, its divisions and subdivisions, maintain records which are diverse and specific to each department, and because various departments within the City have not historically maintained the type of index described in RCW 42.56.070(3), the City finds it would be unduly burdensome, if not physically impossible, to create or maintain either a historical or a current index of all the City’s public records existing since date of incorporation, as well as the fact that new records are being created every day.

The City Clerk maintains a limited index consisting of ordinances and resolutions of the City Council, current and historical City Council appointed board and commission rosters, land use applications, and all contracts, franchises, deeds, easements, and leases and similar documents.

5.4    Format of Electronic Records: Electronic records must be retained in electronic format and remain useable, searchable, retrievable, and authentic for the length of the designated retention period. Printing and retaining a hard copy is not a substitute for the electronic version (WAC 434-662-040). Examples of electronic records include but are not limited to emails, web pages and databases.

5.5    Disposition: Records disposition refers to the action taken when records are no longer active. Disposition includes transferring inactive records to storage, transferring records to the State Archives or Digital Archives, or destruction. Records must be retained and disposed of based on content rather than format. Retention schedules apply to paper and electronic records equally. Records should be reviewed against the retention schedule prior to disposition. Transitory records may be deleted when they are no longer needed.

Employees should also verify that records are not subject to a legal hold prior to disposition by contacting the Public Records Officer.

5.6    City System Only: It is City policy that all public records shall be stored on City systems, including data or digital records residing on third party vendor storage or network systems whose content is controlled and accessible by the City such as off-site records storage services, cloud-based storage services, and data in hosted software (Software as a Service).

Employees, who create records on a personal device or on a device where records cannot be easily retrieved, shall isolate said records and forward the files, emails, and/or text messages (SMS & MMS) to a City system by transferring or emailing the records to his or her City email account, and/or other data capturing system provided by the City.

5.7    Privacy: Employees should have no expectation of privacy for the content of emails or text messages sent or received on City-owned devices or systems. Employees must also be aware that personal devices may be subject to a public records search under public records laws if work-related emails and text messages are sent and/or received on the personal device.


6.1    Retention

6.1.1    Retention Schedules: The records retention schedule lists records by series, provides retention periods, and describes final disposition. RCW 40.14 allows the City to legally destroy records only after the minimum retention period listed on the schedule has been met. The retention schedule can be found by visiting the City Clerk Division’s SharePoint site.

6.1.2    Retention Period: The retention period is the minimum time that records must be kept. With City Clerk approval, departments may extend the retention period of any record beyond the minimum requirement.

6.2    Location of Records: City of Renton records are those that are created or received by the City in connection with the transaction of public business. For this reason, City records are required to be retained and managed by the City regardless of where the record is located.

6.2.1    Active Records: Active records are those required for current use. Active records are typically housed within City department offices and are referred to more than once per month.

6.2.2    Inactive Records: Inactive records have not reached the end of the retention period but are accessed infrequently. To save space and reduce cost, inactive records should be stored with the City Clerk Division. Inactive records must continue to be safeguarded and protected from damage through the retention period. Please see section 6.3 for information regarding how to store inactive records.

6.2.3    Archival Records: Departments shall submit inactive records with archival value (paper or electronic), as noted on the retention schedules, to the City Clerk Division for disposition of the records.

6.2.4    Essential Records: Essential records are necessary for the continuity of City operations following a disaster and support the City’s legal authority, responsibility, rights, and financial status; are necessary to resume and restore operations; and document the rights and obligations of City employees and citizens. Essential records require extra care to ensure they are adequately backed up and recoverable in the event of a disaster.

6.3    Paper Records Management

6.3.1    Departments shall organize records in a systematic and logical manner. Records eligible to be transferred to the City Clerk storage area must be stored in boxes obtained from the City Clerk Division.

6.3.2    Each box must be labeled and listed on a transmittal sheet. More than one box can be listed on one transmittal sheet. Labels and transmittal sheets are available in the City Clerk Division. Transmittal sheets must be submitted in advance to the City Clerk Division for assignment of box number and location. (See Exhibit A.)

6.3.3    Records packed in each box must be in the same records series or have the same retention period if in a different series. It is not necessary for the box to be full, but it is important not to overfill the box.

6.3.4    Boxes must remain in originating department until removed by City Clerk staff, typically on Fridays, and transferred to off-site storage.

6.3.5    Copies of transmittal sheets with assigned location codes will be returned to staff following storage of records.

6.4    Digital Records Management

6.4.1    Departments shall organize and manage digital files in a systematic and logical manner to ensure they are securely preserved for their appropriate retention period; to ensure ease of accessibility; and to ensure that they can be transferred to the Digital Archives. Digital records can be duplicated easily. To minimize proliferation of duplicated records, employees shall manage records in their possession diligently and delete secondary and transitory copies as soon as they are no longer needed.

6.4.2    Website and Social Media Management: Web sites and social media accounts created and maintained by the City are public records. These public records shall be retained in accordance with the retention schedule based on content not format. Websites that are determined to have archival value shall be transmitted to the Digital Archives or retained by the City until the record can be transferred to the Digital Archives.

6.4.3    Email Management: Emails are public records that must be retained in accordance with the retention schedule based on content. Emails that are determined to have archival value based on the State retention schedule shall retained by the City with attachments and metadata until the record can be transferred to the Digital Archives.

6.4.4    Metadata Requirements: Electronic records must contain sufficient metadata to categorize, search, and retrieve the records. All transfers of electronic records to the Digital Archives must include appropriate identifiers (such as date, case number, file number, etc.) as specified by the State.

6.4.5    System to Search and Retrieve Digital Records: When public records are retained in digital format, the City must either maintain compatible hardware/software to search and retrieve the records for the duration of the retention period or convert existing records to formats compatible with new systems.

6.4.6    The City has selected an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System to store digitized paper records. The system meets State requirements and is used as an alternative to retaining paper records. Paper records may be destroyed after being digitized and quality checked. Once digitized, the retention of digitized records through the disposition process shall be done in accordance with section 5.5 of this policy. The City Clerk Division is responsible for final disposition of the records.

6.5    Requesting Records

6.5.1    Staff Requests for Stored Records: City personnel may request records housed in the City’s records storage center by telephoning the City Clerk staff in advance, and providing the file name, file number, box number, and location code (if known). Records will be retrieved on the Friday of each week. Records must be returned directly to City Clerk Division. A checkout log is maintained for tracking purposes.

6.5.2    Staff Requests for Records on File in the City Clerk Division: Employees may request records on file in the City Clerk Division by telephoning in advance. With a few exceptions, records will be available immediately and may be reviewed on-site or checked out by completing a checkout slip and logging the record in the record log on the front counter. All records shall be returned within 30 days.

6.5.3    Public Records Requests: See Policy and Procedure No. 100-05 – “Public Records Act” for detailed information regarding City-wide public disclosure request procedures.

6.6    Destruction: A list identifying records eligible for destruction will be transmitted annually to the appropriate department for review and approval. Signature by a supervisor and/or manager is required prior to destruction of records. A department may request inspection of stored records prior to destruction.

6.6.1    Destruction Certificates: The City Clerk Division must maintain a Certificate of Destruction (created by the division or obtained from a vendor) for all primary copies of records destroyed, regardless of format (paper, electronic, media, etc.).

6.6.2    Secondary Copies: Secondary copies exist for convenience of reference, or for informational purposes, and may be discarded when no longer needed. A records destruction certificate or log is not necessary when disposing of secondary copies unless otherwise noted on the retention schedule.

6.6.3    Transitory Records: Transitory records can be discarded when their purpose has been fulfilled. A records destruction certificate or log is not necessary when disposing of transitory records. Digital records that are transitory in nature (emails, text messages, etc.) shall be deleted as soon as the record is no longer needed.

6.6.4    Confidential Records: Confidential or sensitive records, including those stored on non-paper media, must be reduced to illegible condition when destroyed or may be placed in a secure shred bin.

Exhibit A: Sample Transmittal







(City Clerk Office)



LOCATION (City Clerk assigned)

BOX NO. (City Clerk assigned)























































































































Exhibit B

Text Messages as Public Records

Can I use my Mobile Device (mobile phone/tablet) to conduct City business via text messaging?

Employees are discouraged from using text messaging to send or receive substantive (or non-transitory) City records. Employees must be thoughtful when using their City issued and/or personal mobile devices for work purposes. It is not records management best practice to conduct substantive City business via text messaging.

However, the City acknowledges that some employees may have job responsibilities that require the creation or receipt of text messages that must be retained in order to document City government functions, business transactions, projects, activities, etc. In those limited instances, employees must appropriately save and manage the text messages that are related to work.

NOTE: City departments and employees cannot rely on cell phone service providers to retain and manage the City’s text records. Employees are responsible for managing these records and ensuring that they be retained for the State mandated retention period.

Can text messages be public records subject to the Public Records Act?

Yes. RCW 40.14.010 states that “… public records shall include any paper, correspondence, completed form, bound record book, photograph, film sound recording, map drawing, machine-readable material, compact disc meeting current industry ISO specifications, or other document, regardless of physical form or characteristics, and including such copies thereof, that have been made by or received by any agency of the state of Washington in connection with the transaction of public business…”

Therefore, text messages created, received, or maintained by a City employee to support the work they are responsible for is a public record under State law and must be retained and managed properly.

All City records are subject to disclosure, however, some records may be exempt or prohibited from being produced under the Public Records Act – RCW 42.56.

My mobile device is not issued by the City. Do these rules still apply to me?

Yes. Per RCW 40.14, a text message that is sent or received by a City employee in connection with the transaction of City business is a public record and, therefore, City property. It is the content and function of the message that makes this determination not the ownership of the device used to transmit or receive the message. Public records stored on an employee’s personal cell phone or other mobile device are subject to the same litigation discovery and Public Records Act requirements as records stored on City owned devices and equipment.

How long do text messages need to be kept?

The retention requirements for all City records, including text messages, are based on the content and function of the record and not its format. Text messages must be retained according to the same rules as email messages or paper documents with the same content. Retention requirements for the City’s records can be found in the City Clerk Division’s SharePoint site. Employees may also call the Deputy City Clerk at 425-430-6504 for assistance.

In the rare case when you must use text messaging for City work, you must email the texts and/or images to your City email account where they can be managed by the IT Division. An emailed screen shot made with your mobile phone of the work-related text may be the only practical way. We recommend that you put keywords related to the text or image in the email’s subject line so that it can be easily searched and retrieved.

Transitory records should be disposed of when no longer needed. Transitory records are defined as records required for only a short period of time to complete a routine action or to prepare a subsequent record. Examples of common transitory records include working files, non-substantive correspondence, duplicative copies, and handwritten notes transcribed into printed form.

An example of a text message that qualifies as a transitory record (which should be deleted when it is no longer needed) might be:

“I’m going to be a few minutes late to our meeting.”

While an example of text message that qualifies as a non-transitory record (which must be captured and managed per a specific records schedule) might be:

“I did a site visit to the construction site. All work is in compliance, and I see no issues that need to be addressed regarding the pending permit application.”

In the first example, the record value of the message is only to those participants in the meeting who may be wondering where a colleague is, and thus there is no long term value of the message that requires its preservation beyond the start of the meeting. In the second example, the message is documenting a decision about a City issued permit that must be captured and retained according to a specific retention schedule.

As this example demonstrates, employees need to pay careful attention to the use of text messaging as it relates to City business to ensure proper management of these text records.

Common retention schedules that might apply to text messages with retention value include the following:

Record Title/Description



Communications – General

Internal and external communications to or from non-executive employees (includes contractor or volunteers), that are made or received in connection with the transaction of City business, and are not covered by a more specific records series.

Non-executive employees refers to those employed by the City without governing, directive, or executive powers and do not contribute to finalized executive decision making processes. Includes all communication types, regardless of format (examples: letters, memos, email, web sites/forms/pages, instant messages, social media posts and comments, etc.)

Includes but is not limited to requests for and provision of information/advice and City-initiated information/advice.

2 years


Communications – Elected Officials, Administrators

Internal and external communications to or from the City’s elected officials and/or executive management team, that are made or received in connection with the transaction of City business, and that are not covered by a more specific records series. Includes communications by supporting staff acting on behalf of elected official or executive.

Includes but is not limited to:

•    Requests for and provision of information/advice and City-initiated information/advice, sent or received by elected officials or executive management team.

•    Meetings held among department directors, as well as Councilmembers.

Includes all communication types, regardless of format (examples: letters, memos, email, web site/forms/pages, instant messages, social media posts and comments, etc.)

2 years


(Appraisal Required)

Citizen Complaints/Requests

Communications from citizens making a complaint or request, as well as the associated response.

3 years after complaint resolved


How should text messages with retention value be retained?

Records management best practice is to retain the content of the text message along with the corresponding metadata for the required records retention period. How best to capture these records depends on the platform of the mobile device (Apple, Android, Windows, etc.) and the version of the operating software being used. Please contact the IT Division at 425-430-6870 for assistance.

If you have any questions about the retention of text messages please contact the City’s Records Management Coordinator at 425-430-6521, or the City’s Public Records Officer at 425-430-6507, or by email at cityclerkrecords@rentonwa.gov.