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.
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.
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 the Schedule 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.
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 this Schedule may need to be kept if created before 1910. Often these records have continuing historical or research value because:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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 contact 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 this Schedule
This Schedule covers the vast majority of all records of local governments. 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 the Schedule 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 this Schedule 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.
Local public benefit corporations (per Section 2 of the Public Authorities Law, those whose members are not appointed by the governor nor hold a civil office of the state) or other special purpose units of local government located in New York City may possess records not covered by this Schedule. Pursuant to Section 185.5 (c) of 8NYCRR these local governments may use their own local records retention and disposition schedules in lieu of this Schedule. These local schedules must be approved by the State Archives. For additional information on this subject, contact the State Archives' Government Records Services.
Records of Local Governments Where Disposition is Governed by Specific Laws
Records of housing authorities are disposable according to Section 59 of the Public Housing Law.
Records of the Utica Transit Authority are disposable according to Section 68 of the Transportation Law.
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. 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 Municipal and 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 the Office of Records Management, Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 8th floor, New York, NY 10004; phone: (212) 428-2875.
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. Vital records are authorized for disposition under the following Records Disposition Authorizations (RDAs):
- birth records (RDAs 19669, 19670, and 19671): Retain original paper record permanently unless the paper record is microfilmed or scanned in which case the microfilm or scanned copy should be kept permanently and the paper original can be destroyed after 3 years.
- death certificates (RDAs 19665, 19666, and 19667): Retain original paper record permanently unless the paper record is microfilmed or scanned in which case the microfilm or scanned copy should be kept permanently and the paper original can be destroyed after 3 years.
- marriage records (RDAs 19662, 19663, and 19664): Retain original paper record permanently unless the paper record is microfilmed or scanned in which case the microfilm or scanned copy should be kept permanently and the paper original can be destroyed after 3 years.
- burial transit records (RDAs 19239, 19240, and 19241): Retain original paper record permanently unless the paper record is microfilmed or scanned in which case the microfilm or scanned copy should be kept permanently and the paper original can be destroyed after 1 year.
- applications or requests for copies of vital records and general subject and correspondence records (RDA 19668): Destroy after 5 years
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 New York City
While retention periods for records of New York City offices, boroughs, and public administrators 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 the 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 schedule covers only election records of county boards; general administrative records are listed on the Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York Local Government Records. Copies of this schedule are available on the State Archives' website: http://www.archives.nysed.gov/common/archives/files/mr_pub_electionschedule.pdf.
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 or the Records Management Officer, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Swan Street Building, ESP, Albany, NY 12228.
Records of District Superintendents of Schools
These records are considered records of the State Education Department (SED). 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 SED's Records Management Officer. Contact the State Archives for the name and address/phone number of the current SED Records Management Officer.