SECTION INDEX:    Records Management

1    Purpose

2    Reference

3    Application

4    Guidance

4.1    Responsibility / Authority

4.2    Definitions

4.3    Retention, Disposition, and Destruction

4.4    Electronic Records

4.5    Legal Holds and Public Records Requests

4.6    Location of Records


This Policy provides requirements for the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of City of Olympia 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.


•    RCW 40.14, Preservation and Destruction of Public Records

•    RCW 42, 56, Public Records Act

•    RCW 40.10, Protection of Essential Records

•    WAC 434-622, Preservation of Electronic Public Records

•    Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (The Principles)

•    ISO 15489: 2001

•    WA Secretary of State- Local Government Records Retention Schedule

•    Policy 26, Technology Policy

•    Policy 27, Public Disclosure Policy

•    Resolution M-1732 Designating City Clerk as Public Records Officer


This Policy applies to all City of Olympia employees and volunteers and all City of Olympia records, regardless of format.

Failure to comply with this Policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from City service.



a.    Public Records Officer: For the purposes of a member of the public appealing a decision of the City regarding the release of a record, the Administrative Services Director is the designated Public Records Officer to whom members of the public may appeal denials of public records.

b.    All Other Purposes: For all other purposes, the Administrative Services Division Director shall determine who is responsible for public records in the City (where the Records unit is located) and who oversees compliance with the public records disclosure requirements under RCW 42.56.

c.    Records Coordinators: Department Directors designate records coordinators to assist and comply with the Public Records Officer’s directions and manage department records. Individual departments are responsible for securely maintaining records for the retention period indicated on the retention schedule. Department responsibilities include ensuring the physical safety of records, and ensuring that confidential records are protected from inappropriate release and the day to day management of records, both paper and electronic.

d.    City Staff: All employees create and use public records as part of their regular job duties and are responsible for following this Policy as well as associated policies and procedures. City staff will be responsible and held accountable to meet the City’s responsibilities under this Policy.


a.    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.

b.    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.

c.    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.

d.    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 records are 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.

e.    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.

f.    Public Record: RCW 40.14.010 defines public record as ...The term 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...”

g.    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.

h.    Retention Schedule: A table setting out requirements adopted by the Washington State Local Records Committee which specifies the 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.

i.    Transitory Records: Transitory records only document information of temporary, short-term value, provided that the records are not needed as evidence of a business transaction and are not covered by a more specific records series on the retention schedule.

4.3. Retention, Disposition, and Destruction

a.    The City’s records retention schedules are established by the Local Records Committee as established by the Washington State Secretary of State. The schedules list records by series, provide retention periods, and describe final disposition needed. RCW 40.14 allows the City to legally destroy records only after the minimum retention period listed on the schedule has been met.

b.    The retention period is the minimum time that records must be kept. Departments should review records annually, both paper and electronic, and dispose of records that have met designated retention periods according to the instructions on the schedule.

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

d.    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 off-site at the City’s secure records storage vendor. Inactive records must continue to be safeguarded and protected from damage and disorganization through the retention period.

e.    Departments should contact Central Records for guidance on disposition of records with archival value (paper or electronic), as noted on the retention schedules.

f.    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.

g.    Records disposition refers to the action taken when records are no longer active. Disposition includes transferring inactive records to storage or destruction. Records subject to archival transfer as determined by the Washington State Archives are noted on the retention schedules.

h.    Departments should complete a records destruction certificate when destroying primary copies of records in any format (paper, electronic, audio, etc.) that have met retention requirements.

i.    Secondary copies are generally kept for administrative use and can be discarded when that purpose has been fulfilled. A records destruction certificate is not necessary when disposing of secondary or convenience copies unless otherwise noted on the retention schedule.

j.    Transitory records can be discarded when their purpose has been fulfilled. A records destruction certificate is not necessary when disposing of transitory records.

k.    Confidential or sensitive records, including non-paper media, must be reduced to illegible condition when destroyed.

4.4. Electronic Records

a.    Electronic records must be retained in electronic format and remain useable, searchable, retrievable, and authentic for the applicable retention period. Printing and retaining a hard copy is not a substitute for the electronic version. Examples of electronic records include web pages and databases.

b.    Electronic records must be retained and disposed of based on content rather than format. The same retention schedule applies to paper and electronic records.

c.    In making decisions about how long to retain electronic records, employees should first check the retention schedule to ensure compliance and verify that the records are not subject to a legal hold. Many electronic records can be disposed of at the discretion of the employee under the following guidance:

1.    If the electronic record is the primary or only copy of an official document, it must be retained for the time period specified by the retention schedule. Once the required retention has been met, the record should be deleted and documented on a records destruction certificate. Departments should contact Central Records for direction on electronic records designated as “archival.” Examples of official records include policies and procedures, executive level correspondence, and final reports.

2.    If the electronic record is transitory in nature with no administrative, legal, fiscal, or archival value, then the record can be deleted at the discretion of the user. Examples include secondary copies of memos, general office notices, general information, working copies, transmittal memos, meeting announcements, invitations to retirement parties, drafts.

3.    E-mail records are subject to the same retention schedule as paper records. Many email records are transitory in nature and may be deleted when they are no longer needed. Emails, both sent and received, that require retention must be managed accordingly. The City may use programs to aid in the management, retention, and disposition of email, including deletion of messages after specific retention periods based on record series. Employees are expected to make use of these programs to ensure that proper retention is applied and that emails that do not need to be retained are deleted appropriately.

i.    Some examples of email subject to retention include policy and procedure directives; correspondence or memoranda related to official business; documentation of actions, decisions, operations, and responsibilities, documentation of legal or audit issues; documents that initiate, authorize, or complete a business transaction; final reports or recommendations.

ii.    Most email consists of transitory messages and attachments that may be deleted when no longer needed. An email that has no administrative, legal, fiscal, or archival retention requirements may be deleted as soon as it has served its purpose. Some examples of email not subject to retention include personal messages and announcements not related to official business; information only or duplicate copies; copies of publications; miscellaneous notices or memoranda of a general and non-continuing nature (meeting notices, reservations, confirmations); preliminary drafts of notes, letters, reports, worksheets which do not represent significant steps in the preparation of record documents; requests for routine information or forms.

iii.    Use of personal email accounts (such as Hotmail or Gmail) for conducting City business is prohibited. In the event email related to the conduct of City business is received at a personal email address, it should be immediately forwarded as an attachment to the City email system.

4.    Records created related to City business—including text messages, voicemail messages, and other electronic communications—are City records. These records therefore (1) should be managed according to the applicable retention schedule, and (2) may be subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. The following is intended to help manage the business-related messages you send or receive on smart phones, tablets, or similar devices (iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, etc.)

i.    With department director authorization, employees may use text messaging only for routine or transitory messages that don’t need to be retained by the City. Examples include informal notices of meetings, directions, scheduling information, and other routine messages that would not be kept in a file if it were a paper communication.

ii.    Text messages may not be used to send policy, contract, formal correspondence, or personnel related data. Sensitive information should not be sent by text message, including social security numbers, credit card numbers, and passwords.

iii.    Delete transitory, business-related text messages as soon as possible.

iv.     If a text message needs to be retained pursuant to a retention schedule, employees must transfer the messages to the City’s network and/or devices.

4.5. 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 until the legal hold is released by the City Attorney’s Office. If a record(s) covered by a public records request is scheduled for destruction, the record(s) must be retained until the request is fulfilled. Also refer to Policy 27-Public Disclosure Policy.

4.6. Location of Records

City of Olympia records are those that are made or received by the City in connection with the transaction of public business. For this reason, City records are required to be saved and retained in City files or on the City’s network and/or devices. City records cannot be saved solely on a personal device or outside City networks.

Revision history: February 2017; January 2015; October 2013; September 2011; July 2010. Superseded: Administrative Guideline Records Management Policy”.