Doyle Administration Warned Not to Destroy Public Records

MacIver News Service | November 16, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…] Top officials within the Administration of outgoing Governor Jim Doyle have been reminded not to destroy public records in their waning days in power.

Carol Hemersbach, Acting Chair for the Wisconsin Public Records Board, sent a memo to all agency secretaries, deputy secretaries and executive assistants explaining the need to maintain public documents.

“With the transition to a new Governor in January 2011 there will be many changes in appointments within Wisconsin State government,” wrote Hemersbach. “The Public Records Board would like to take this opportunity to remind state officials about the importance of proper record keeping, ensuring a smooth transition and adequate maintenance of the public records within your offices.”

The memo warns that individuals, including political appointees who will be leaving state service soon, must keep their records for their successors.

“Records created, maintained or received in the course of conducting public business belong to the office and not the individual. Wis. Stat.19.21 (2) requires public officials to make the records of their offices available to their successors. Generally, any records created or received in an official capacity are public records and not the private property of the office holder or appointee,” the memo stated. “The statutory definition of record is quite broad and the exclusion for personal property is narrowly defined as “materials which are purely the personal property of the custodian and have no relation to his or her office.”

The memo advises that when in doubt, state employees should maintain their records.

“Officials should err on the side of maintaining a complete set of records, removing only those items that meet the two-part test of this statute,” Hemersbach wrote.

Click here to see the entire memo.