MOUNT VERNON — Accurate and proper records retention has been a topic for township, county and city entities as of late. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office requires that all government entities have a retention policy in place which includes specific guidelines as to when the different types of public records can be disposed.
Tanya Newell, the administrative assistant for Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis, attended records retention policy training in Toledo on behalf of Mavis, the treasurer and city council. Each elected official or a representative for them is required to attend this training. Other city employees are welcome to attend but are not required. The training is facilitated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
It is a city department head’s responsibility to maintain proper records retention practices in each department.
“I don’t think we’ve ever questioned any department head about ‘did you do this or did you do that,’” said Mavis. He later added he will be bringing up the subject at an upcoming department head meeting about making sure they all receive proper training on records retention policies.
The local Records Commission for the City of Mount Vernon is chaired by Mavis with city auditor Terry Scott serving as recording secretary.
“All of our department heads have some general idea on what public records are and how they need to be stored and disposed of,” said Scott. “We certainly try to assist all the departments, and they are pretty diligent about asking about getting records in order to do what they need to do.” While Scott pointed out that it may not be an ethical issue when departments keep records longer than necessary, but the issue of adequate storage space can then come into play.
Proper paperwork for records retention can involve the use of three separate forms which are filed with the Ohio Historical Society’s Local Government Records Program by the local Records Commission. Disclosure of the types and dates of documents are given through the use of different documents filed with the OHS. The distinctions are: RC-1 — Application for one-time disposal of obsolete records which are no longer maintained. These consist of items not included on the schedule of items on the RC-2.
RC-2 — Schedule of records retention and disposition. Each office has an RC-2 which lists record titles and descriptions as well as the media type and retention period for all records to be disposed.
RC-3 — Certificate of records disposal. These are forms filled out once retention periods have passed when records can be requested to be disposed. Once an RC-3 form is submitted to the OHS, they then have 15 days to respond before records can be disposed.
“They want to know exactly what it is and exactly the year ... and if it is missing any information at all, they will email you back and let you know you need to re-submit,” said Newell about the filing of retention records with the OHS.
“If someone were to come in and ask for a records request, no matter what your RC-2 states, if they request it and you haven’t properly disposed of it, you are required to add that into the records request,” said Newell. “If you are retaining it, you have to give it.”
Once approval is given to dispose of records, disposal of documents is scheduled, which the City of Mount Vernon does with Shred-It in Columbus. A truck usually arrives at City Hall with a large shredder in the back of the truck where documents are shredded onsite. A truck was in town on Tuesday to collect documents from the mayor’s office, the law director’s office and the police department.
Mount Vernon Police Chief Mike Merrilees was seen loading boxes of records onto the truck Tuesday, which sparked calls to the News from concerned citizens. According to the Certificate of Records Disposal, the police department disposed of 38 different classifications of records including staff meeting notes; officer statistic reports; criminal case files (felony excluding homicide and arson) prior to Dec. 31, 1987; arrest books prior to Dec. 31, 2006; traffic citations; annual budget; vehicle impound records including wrecker rotation logs prior to Dec. 31, 2008; and dispatcher notes up to May 23, 2013.
The shredder was reportedly not functioning then, so the boxes of documents were loaded into the truck and taken to Columbus where they were to be disposed of later.
Mavis said that while copies of RC-3s are kept on file, he would have no way of knowing if departments are keeping up to date with their records retention.
Questions were recently posed to the News about the documents being loaded into the truck by Merrilees. Citizens were concerned because Merrilees is being investigated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
“In my opinion, we have done everything according to law,” said Mavis, alluding to the fact that he was assured that all documents were included on the RC-3 and RC2 schedule, and that this was a scheduled document pickup. Newell stated that Tuesday’s truck was ordered on May 28 and that the Shred-It company cannot make an impromptu appearance for shredding.
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