Managing Records: Records Retention & Disposition:

Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2

for use by counties
2006

This publication is available by

Table of Contents

Changes in Retention

Front matter

Records Descriptions and Retention Periods

 

INTRODUCTION

Purpose

This revised Records Retention and Disposition Schedule indicates the minimum length of time that county officials must retain their records before they may be disposed of legally. It is a revised edition of Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2, originally issued in 1990, and revised since then. It has been prepared and issued by the State Archives, State Education Department, pursuant to Section 57.25 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, and Part 185, Title 8 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York.

The purposes of this Schedule are to:

(1) ensure that records are retained as long as needed for administrative, legal and fiscal purposes;

(2) ensure that state and federal record retention requirements are met;

(3) ensure that record series with enduring historical and other research value are identified and retained permanently; and

(4) encourage and facilitate the systematic disposal of unneeded records.

 

Adoption and Use of the Schedule

Before records disposition takes place, this Schedule must be formally adopted by resolution of the governing body. Adoption procedures are explained in the Instructions. If your governing body has already adopted Schedule CO-2 (1990) by resolution, then you do not need to adopt the Schedule again in order to use this revised edition, even though there are major changes between this edition and the previous edition of the Schedule. Once the Schedule has been adopted, local officials may proceed to dispose of records that have met the retention periods specified on the Schedule.

Previous Schedules Superseded

Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2 supersedes and replaces Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-1, previously issued by the State Archives for use by counties. The consent of the Commissioner of Education to use this schedule is withdrawn, and it may not be used to dispose of records. The governing body must adopt Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2 in order to dispose of any records. Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CC-1 (issued in 1988 for use by community colleges) is also no longer valid. Counties with single sponsorship of a community college should use this edition of Schedule CO-2 instead.

Archival Records

Archival records are records that governments must keep permanently to meet fiscal, legal, or administrative needs of the government or which the government retains because they contain historically significant information. Records do not have to be old to be archival; local officials create and use archival records daily in offices. What makes a record worthy of permanent retention and special management is the continuing importance of the information it contains.

When the State Archives has determined that a record series has enduring historical or other research significance for all local governments, the series has been given a permanent designation on the Schedule. Other record series which may have historical or research significance in some local governments but not in others have an appraisal note to encourage local officials to evaluate the records to determine their importance before disposition. However, the State Archives cannot identify all record series with historical or research significance for individual local governments. Knowledge of people, places, or events in each community and the unique circumstances of each government will determine which records are significant. Local officials will need to appraise records with nonpermanent retention periods for potential research or historical value before destroying them.

The usefulness of archival records depends on the government's ability to preserve them, retrieve the information they contain, and make that information available to researchers. Further information on managing archival records is provided in the State Archives' Publication No. 40, Fundamentals of Managing Local Government Archival Records.

Appraising Records for Historical or Research Significance

A local government record has historical or other research importance if it provides significant evidence of how the government functions and/or if it provides significant information about people, places or events that involve the government. Since each community has its own unique history, the importance or value of a record series may vary from local government to local government.

Because local governments are continually involved in the lives of people, their records may contain a tremendous amount of information about the people who live there, the buildings and sites within their borders, and the important time periods or significant events that affected the people of the region. Government records can reveal information about what people owned; about attitudes, values and concerns of the citizens; about how the construction of a new highway led to the end of a neighborhood, or about how a community reacted to a military base closing. The records may contain information about the people, places or events themselves or about the decisions made in relation to them. This information can be very valuable to staff, researchers, and the public, but only if the information itself is significant. The records must contain enough information to adequately document the people, places, or events recorded. The significance of the records will depend on:

  • When the records were created: records created during a time of momentous change, which are scarce or which cover a long period of time tend to be more significant.
  • What kind of information the records contain: records that contain more in-depth information are more likely to have enduring value.
  • Who created the records: records that reflect an employee's perspective or individual point of view may be more significant.
  • What other records exist: if the information in the records exists in other records within the local government or elsewhere in the state or country, then the records are less likely to be significant.
  • The unique history of the local government or community: records created during important time periods or events can provide clues to how the events affected the development of the government and the community it serves.

The historical or other research importance of records will vary from local government to local government and from region to region. The people, places, or events in each community, and the unique circumstances of each government, determine which records are significant. Further information on identifying historically significant records is provided in the State Archives' Publication No. 50, Appraisal of Local Government Records for Historical Value. State Archives' staff can also advise and assist local officials who are appraising records for potential long-term research value.

Records Created Before 1910

Disposition of records created before 1910 requires specific written approval from the State Archives, as required by Section 185.6 (c) of 8NYCRR, the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. Certain records which would normally be disposable under Schedule CO-2 may need to be kept if created before 1910. Often these records have continuing historical or research value because:

(1) Other documentation no longer exists. Many earlier records were destroyed through natural disaster or through destruction by public officials prior to the passage of the first state statute in 1911 requiring the consent of the Commissioner of Education to the disposition of local public records;

(2) The volume and type of information contained in records have changed since the beginning of the 20th century. Older records often have more detailed and historically significant information than those produced today;

(3) Early records sometimes have intrinsic value beyond the information they contain. "Intrinsic value" refers to qualities, such as value for exhibits, association with significant events, and aesthetic value, which records may possess beyond merely the information they contain. Further information on identifying records with intrinsic value is provided in the State Archives' Publication No. 36, Intrinsic Value of Local Government Archival Records.

Local officials desiring to dispose of any records created before 1910 should telephone or write the State Archives, to obtain disposition request forms. This requirement also applies to the disposition of original records predating 1910 which have been microfilmed. The State Archives will review each request and advise the local government on retention or disposition of the records.

Records Not Listed on Schedule CO-2

This Schedule covers the vast majority of all records of counties. For any record not listed, the Records Management Officer, or the custodian of the record, should contact the State Archives to determine if it is indeed covered by this Schedule and if a legal minimum retention period has been established. If not, the State Archives will consult with appropriate state and local officials and users of local government records and advise the local government on the disposition of the records. If the record is not covered by an item on this Schedule, it must be retained until a revised edition of or addendum to Schedule CO-2 is issued containing an item covering the record in question and providing a minimum legal retention period for it.

Conversely, the State Archives has no legal authority to require local governments to create records where no records exist, even if the records in question are listed on this Schedule. Although there may be laws, regulations or other requirements that certain records must be created, those requirements do not originate from the State Archives. Instead, the purpose of Schedule CO-2 is to authorize the disposition of records which local governments maintain. The mere fact that a record is identified on this Schedule should not be interpreted as a requirement that the record must be created.

Canceled Obligations

The disposition of canceled obligations (including bonds and notes) is covered by Section 63.10 of the Local Finance Law and Part 55 of Title 2 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York. A leaflet on this subject is available from the State Archives' Government Records Services. Questions about the destruction procedure should be addressed to the Office of State Comptroller, Division of Legal Services, 110 State Street, Albany, NY 12236; phone, (518) 474-5586.

Court Records in County Offices

Disposition of court records is governed by the state Office of Court Administration (OCA). Disposition schedules listing court records held by municipalities are available from OCA. For information, contact Records Office, Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 8th floor, New York, NY 10004; phone, (212) 428-2877.

Official Birth, Death and Marriage Records

Records of births, deaths, and marriages (dating after 1880) generated pursuant to Article 41 of the Public Health Law are considered state government records even though they are generated by or filed in local government offices. Disposition of state government records is governed by the provisions of Section 57.05 (11) of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. Disposition under this Law is also coordinated by the State Archives' Government Records Services. For more information, contact the State Archives or the Director's Office, Vital Records Section, New York State Department of Health, PO Box 2602, Albany, NY 12220-2602; phone, (518) 474-3055.

Records of Counties Located in New York City

While retention periods for records of New York City offices and boroughs are established by the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS), remember that all other local governments located in New York City, including counties, school districts and public benefit corporations, use retention schedules issued by the State Archives for records other than court records.

Records of a County District Attorney

Disposition of these records is presently covered by Section 89.2 of the Judiciary Law. Application must be made to the appropriate Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court.

Records of a County Board of Elections

A schedule for disposition of records of county boards of elections was issued in 1996 by the State Archives and the State Board of Elections. This covers only election records of county boards; general administrative records are listed on Schedule CO-2. Copies are available from the State Archives' Government Records Services or from the State Board of Elections.

County Motor Vehicles Records Found in County Clerks' Offices

These records are state government records. Disposition of state government records is governed by the provisions of Section 57.05 (11) of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. Disposition under this Law are also coordinated by the State Archives' Government Records Services. For more information, contact the State Archives and the Records Management Officer, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Swan Street Building, ESP, Albany, NY 12228.

Records of Community Colleges Sponsored by More Than One County

Community colleges where more than one county are its "local sponsors" are considered autonomous local governments and their records are covered by Schedule MI-1, issued by and available from the State Archives. Community colleges with single county sponsorship are considered to be part of the sponsoring county, and must use Schedule CO-2. Schedule CC-1 (1988) is now obsolete and can not be used by community colleges!

Top of page

 

HOW TO USE SCHEDULE CO-2

Adoption of Schedule CO-2 and Request for Additional Copies

Before any records listed on Schedule CO-2 may be disposed of, the governing body must formally adopt the Schedule by passing a resolution. A model resolution is included at the end of the Introduction to this Schedule. It is not necessary to send a copy of the passed resolution to the State Archives.

This Schedule may be used by the local government until the governing body rescinds its authorizing resolution, or the Schedule is superseded or replaced by the State Archives.

Additional copies of Schedule CO-2 can be obtained by calling the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or faxing the State Archives at (518) 486-4923. Schedule CO-2 can also be obtained in electronic format by calling, faxing or writing the State Archives. The State Archives' e-mail address is recmgmt@mail.nysed.gov. Schedule CO-2 is also available on the Internet at the State Archives' website at http://www.archives.nysed.gov.

Arrangement of Items on the Schedule

In general, items on Schedule CO-2 are arranged as they were in the previous edition, with a few significant exceptions. The Budget, Payroll and Purchasing sections are now subsections of the Fiscal section. The Planning section is now a subsection of the Building and Property Regulation section. Radiological Health records have been moved from the Environmental Health section to the Public Health section. The Rape Crisis Intervention section has been removed and is now covered by the Social Services section. A new section has been added to cover records of Educational Opportunity Centers.

New or Revised Items

Items on this Schedule preceded by an asterisk symbol (*) are either new to this edition, or have been substantively changed from the previous edition. They may have longer or shorter retention periods, additional parts, or additional or revised explanatory notes. Please note these changes carefully on your office schedules and/or inventory or records control forms because only the current items as contained in this edition of Schedule CO-2 are legally applicable. In particular, the Environmental Health and Public Safety sections have been thoroughly revised, with new subsections and items reorganized.

Unique Item Numbering System

In addition to consecutive numbering of items within each section/subsection of the Schedule, items are also assigned a unique identifying number. That number, which appears in brackets [ ], does not change as items are revised or relocated in new editions of Schedule CO-2. New items in this edition have been assigned new unique identifying numbers regardless of their location in the Schedule.

Interpreting Schedule Items

Many of the schedule items are broad and describe the purpose or function of records rather than identifying individual documents and forms. Local officials should match the records in their offices with the generalized descriptions on the Schedule to determine appropriate retention periods. Records whose content and function are substantially the same as an item described in the Schedule should be considered to be covered by that item. Local officials should check with the State Archives when they are uncertain regarding coverage of a function. In situations where local officials have combined related types of records, covered by different items in this Schedule, into a single file series, it may be impractical to separately apply the retention periods of the various applicable Schedule items to the individual records in the file. In such situations, officials may find it more convenient to dispose of the entire set of records by using the applicable retention item with the longest retention period.

Retention periods on this Schedule apply to one "official" copy designated by the local government unless otherwise stated. No matter what the medium, local officials must ensure that the information will be retained for the specified retention period.

The retention periods listed on this Schedule pertain to the information contained in records, regardless of physical form or characteristic (paper, microfilm, computer disk or tape, or other medium). Duplicate copies of records, including copies maintained on different media (paper, electronic, etc.), may be disposed of in accordance with item no. 19 of the General section of this Schedule.

Legal Actions

Some records may be needed to defend the local government in legal actions. Records that are being used in such actions must be retained for the entire period of the action even if their retention period has passed. If the retention period has expired by the time the legal action ends, the record must be retained for at least one additional year to resolve any need for the record in an appeal. If the retention period has not expired, the record must be retained for the remainder of the retention period, but not less than one year after the legal action ends. Prior to disposing of records, local officials may wish to consult with their county attorney to verify that no legal actions have been initiated which would require longer retention of the records.

Additional Retention Requirement in Commissioner's Regulations

The State Education Department's Office of the Professions oversees the professional conduct of licensed health professionals other than physicians, who are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health. Section 29.2 of 8NYCRR (Regulations of The Commissioner of Education) contains "General Provisions for the Health Professions." Paragraph 3 of subdivision a of this Section states that "unprofessional conduct" includes "failing to maintain records for each patient which accurately reflects the evaluation and treatment of the patient. Unless otherwise provided by law, all patient records must be retained for at least six years. . . . . records of minor patients must be retained for at least six years, and until one year after the patient reaches the age of 21 years."

A number of health related items on Schedule CO-2 and other State Archives' schedules contain minimum legal retention periods which permit disposition of records three years after a minor attains age 18. These items are mostly found in the Personnel/Civil Service and Public Health sections. In these instances, certain records pertaining to minors must also be retained for an additional year if those records are subject to the Section 29.2 requirements for health professionals, other than physicians, employed by or associated with local governments. For additional information on this situation, contact the State Archives' Government Records Services.

Audits

Program and fiscal audits and other needs of state and federal agencies are taken into account when retention periods are established by the State Archives. However, in some instances agencies with audit responsibility and authority may formally request that certain records be kept beyond the retention periods. If such a request is made, these records must be retained beyond the retention periods until the local government receives the audit report or until the need is satisfied.

Records That Have Been Microfilmed or Electronically Duplicated

The retention and disposition of the originals of records that have been microfilmed or electronically duplicated is governed by Section 57.29 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law and the State Archives' procedures. Please contact the State Archives for further information prior to beginning a program of microfilming or any other form of records duplication.

Electronic Records

While items on Schedule CO-2 for the most part cover records regardless of the format in which they are maintained, electronic records in some subject areas are treated differently in this edition of the schedule. Some electronic records are listed specifically in the Building and Property Regulation, Environmental Health, Public Health, Public Safety, Taxation and Assessment, and Transportation and Engineering sections. In addition, the Electronic Data Processing section has been greatly expanded to cover a number of series not covered by the previous edition of this Schedule. Study the State Archives' Regulations relating to electronic records (Section 185.8, 8NYCRR), and contact the State Archives if you have any questions or problems after reviewing these requirements. Contact the State Archives as well if you need additional information on electronic records falling in the subject areas mentioned above.

Generally, records transmitted through e-mail systems have the same retention periods as records in other formats that are related to the same program function or activity. E-mail records should be scheduled for disposition in conjunction with any other records related to the program function. Local governments may delete, purge, or destroy e-mail records provided that the records have been retained for the minimum retention established in this Schedule and are not being used for a legal action or audit. Transitory messages may be destroyed in a timely manner, using item no. 18 in the General section of the Schedule. Further information on e-mail records, suggested filing practices, dealing with duplicate copies, and a sample e-mail policy are found on the State Archives' website at . See also the State Archives' Publication No. 62, Managing E-Mail Effectively. Contact the State Archives for additional information.

Electronic records created specifically for distribution via the Internet are considered publications, and are covered by item no. 11 in the General section.

Public Access to Records

This Schedule does not address the issue of public access to records. Access issues are not covered by the Local Government Records Law but are covered by the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, sections 84 through 90). The State Archives urges local government officials to consult with their own counsels, the Committee on Open Government which administers the Freedom of Information Law (see below), or the state or federal agency having oversight over the records in question.

The Committee on Open Government is responsible for administering the Freedom of Information Law, which governs rights of access to government records. (The Committee also administers the Open Meetings Law which concerns the conduct of meetings of public bodies and the right to attend those meetings.) The Committee can provide written or oral advice and mediate in controversies in which rights may be unclear. For more information or advice, please contact:

Executive Director
Committee on Open Government
NYS Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue, Suite 650
Albany, NY 12231
(518) 474-2518

The Committee has issued a booklet, Your Right to Know: New York State's Open Government Laws, which provides guidance on the Freedom of Information Law. As explained in that booklet, the law defines what is meant by a "record" and sets forth provisions regarding access. The booklet states that "all records are accessible, except records that fall within one of nine categories of deniable records." These nine categories (Section 87.2 of the Law) are explained in the booklet. The categories include records which, if disclosed, would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; records which would, if disclosed, impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations; certain records prepared for law enforcement purposes; certain types of inter-agency or intra-agency communications; and several other categories. The booklet describes them in detail. As the booklet notes, "the categories of deniable records are generally directed to the effects of disclosure. They are based in great measure upon the notion that disclosure would in some instances `impair,' `cause substantial injury,' `interfere,' `deprive,' `endanger,' etc."

Local officials should note that the Freedom of Information Law does not require that they provide unrestricted public access to birth, death and marriage licenses. Information about providing access to such records can be obtained from the Vital Records Section of the New York State Department of Health.

Governments are required to develop a subject matter list of their records and to designate a records access officer to coordinate their response to public requests for records. The booklet also explains how people can obtain records, the process for denying access, and how that denial can be appealed. It explains other provisions of the law in detail.

The State Archives strongly urges local officials to read this booklet and contact the Committee on Open Government for any guidance or advice that is needed.

Please note that any record listed in this Schedule for which a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request has been received should not be destroyed until that request has been answered and until any potential appeal is made and resolved, even if the retention period of the record has passed.

Records in this Schedule may or may not be confidential, depending on what information they contain and on the possible effect of disclosure of that information. In approaching issues of confidentiality and access, it may be helpful to consider the following, after reviewing the laws and the Your Right to Know booklet referred to above:

  • What was the purpose for which the records were created?
  • What information do they contain? What subjects are covered?
  • How are the records used?
  • How do they relate to other records that may have similar information?
  • What would be the likely effect of disclosure of the information in the records?

Top of page

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR RECORDS DISPOSITION

Once this Schedule has been formally adopted valueless records may be disposed of continually as they meet their stated minimum retention periods. The advantages of a program for systematic, legal disposal of obsolete records are that it

(1) ensures that records are retained as long as they are actually needed for administrative, fiscal, legal, or research purposes;

(2) ensures that records are promptly disposed of after they are no longer needed;

(3) frees storage space and equipment for important records and for new records as they are created;

(4) eliminates time and effort required to service and sort through superfluous records to find needed information;

(5) eliminates the potential fire hazard from storage of large quantities of valueless records; and

(6) facilitates the identification and preservation of archival records.

Suggestions for systematically approaching the disposition process include the following:

(A) Section 57.19 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law requires each local government to designate a Records Management Officer to coordinate or directly carry out disposition. The duties of a Records Management Officer are found in Section 185.2 of 8NYCRR. Contact the State Archives for additional information.

(B) Disposition should be carried out regularly, at least once a year. It should not be deferred until records become a pressing storage problem. Duplicate copies of records, including copies maintained on different media (paper, electronic, etc.), may be disposed of in accordance with item no. 19 of the General section of this Schedule.

(C) State law does not prescribe the physical means of destruction of most records. Records may be destroyed in any way the Records Management Officer or other local official chooses. Disposition through consignment to a paper recycling plant is often the best choice as it helps conserve natural resources and may also yield revenue for the local government. For records containing confidential information, disposition should be carried out in a way that ensures that the confidentiality of individuals named in the records is protected.

(D) A record should be kept of the identity, inclusive dates, and approximate quantity of records that are disposed. Sample disposition forms are available from the State Archives.

(E) The Records Management Officer, or other official who carries out disposition, should describe what has been done to dispose of records during the year in an annual report to the governing body.

 

REMINDERS

1. Records created before 1910 (even those which have been microfilmed) are not eligible for disposition without written permission from the State Archives.

2. No records may be disposed of unless they are listed on this Schedule, or their disposition is covered by other state laws.

3. Records common to most offices are listed under the General section of the Schedule. You should first attempt to locate a specific item under a functional heading. If the record you are locating cannot be found under a functional heading, then proceed to this General section to search for a less specific item covering the record.

4. Records being used in legal actions must be retained for one year after the legal action ends, or until their scheduled retention period has passed, whichever is longer.

5. Any record listed in this Schedule for which a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request has been received should not be destroyed until that request has been answered and until any potential appeal is made and resolved, even if the retention period of the record has passed.

6. Records being kept beyond the established retention periods for audit and other purposes at the request of state or federal agencies must be retained until the local government receives the audit report, or the need is satisfied.

7. Retention periods on this Schedule apply to one "official" copy designated by the local government, unless otherwise stated.

8. The retention periods listed on this Schedule pertain to the information contained in records, regardless of physical form or characteristic (paper, microfilm, computer disk or tape, or other medium).

9. The State Archives has no legal authority to require local governments to create records where no records exist, even if the records in question are listed on this Schedule.

10. The Budget, Payroll and Purchasing sections are now subsections of the Fiscal section. The Planning section is now a subsection of the Building and Property Regulation section. Radiological Health records have been moved from the Environmental Health section to the Public Health section. The Rape Crisis Intervention section has been removed and is now covered by the Social Services section. A new section has been added to cover records of Educational Opportunity Centers.

11. The State Archives cannot identify all record series with historical significance for individual local governments. Local officials will need to appraise records with nonpermanent retention periods for potential research or historical value before destroying them.

12. Certain records may need to be retained for one year longer than Schedule CO-2 dictates if those records are subject to the requirements stated in Section 29.2 of 8NYCRR for health professionals, other than physicians, employed by or associated with local governments.

13. The Local Government Records Law and Schedule CO-2 do not address confidentiality of records. Confidentiality of records is often dependent upon what information they contain. Local officials should address such questions to the Committee on Open Government, their own counsels, or other state or federal agency having oversight of the records in question.

 

MODEL RESOLUTION

RESOLVED, By the _________________________________________________ [title of governing body] of ___________________________________________ [local government name] that Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2, issued pursuant to Article 57-A of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, and containing legal minimum retention periods for local government records, is hereby adopted for use by all officers in legally disposing of valueless records listed therein.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that in accordance with Article 57-A:

(a) only those records will be disposed of that are described in Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2 after they have met the minimum retention periods described therein;

(b) only those records will be disposed of that do not have sufficient administrative, fiscal, legal, or historical value to merit retention beyond established legal minimum periods.

 

MORE INFORMATION

The State Archives will help local governments interpret and use this Schedule. The State Archives hopes to refine, update, and reissue this Schedule periodically, and welcomes suggestions for improvements in content and format. The State Archives also issues publications on local government records administration and provides advice and assistance to local governments on records management and archival administration problems. For more information contact:

Government Records Services, State Archives
9A47 Cultural Education Center
Albany, NY 12230
tel: (518) 474-6926 fax: (518) 486-4923
e-mail: recmgmt@mail.nysed.gov
web site: http://www.archives.nysed.gov

Top of page