FAQs for Local Government Agencies Illinois State Archives
What types of agencies are subject to the Local Records Act?
All county agencies, all municipal agencies, all township offices, public school districts, public junior colleges, special districts such as Auditorium Districts, SWCD Districts, Mosquito Abatement Districts, Fire Protection Districts, Library Districts, Local Airport Authorities, MEG Units, etc. are subject to the Local Records Act.
What is a public record under the Local Records Act?
Public record means any book, paper, map, photograph or other official documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made, produced, executed or received by any agency or officer pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by such agency or officer, or any successor thereof, as evidence of the organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, or other activities thereof, or because of the informational data contained therein. The preceding definition includes among other things, microfilm, magnetic tapes and punch cards.
Are faxes, videos, emails, and instant messages records, etc.?
Yes, depending on the information contained in the fax, email or instant message or the information recorded on the DVD, cod, video, or cassette tape, etc. If the information fits the definition above of a public record as described in the Local Records Act, then the information is subject to the provisions of the Act regardless of the media the data is maintained in or on. Data can be stored on many types of media including cassette tapes, magnetic tapes, floppy disks, hard-drives, cd's, dvd's, thumb drives, etc.
If our agency has a Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Myspace page, etc. can those contain records under the Illinois Local Records Act?
Yes. Those postings that fit the definition of a public record under the Illinois Local Records Act can only be deleted if they are listed on your Application for Authority to Dispose of Local Records and if the records have been listed on a Local Records Disposal Certificate and submitted to our office for review and approval.
There is no single retention period that applies to all electronic messages or communications, whether they are sent by email, instant messaging, text messaging (such as SMS, Blackberry PIN, etc), multimedia messaging (such as MMS), chat messaging, social networking (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.), or any other current or future electronic messaging technology or device. Retention periods are determined by the content, nature, and purpose of records, and are set based on their legal, fiscal, administrative, and historical values, regardless of the format in which they reside or the method by which they are transmitted. Electronic communications, as with records in other formats, can have a variety of purposes and relate to a variety of program functions and activities. The retention of any particular electronic message will generally be the same as the retention for records in any other format that document the same program function or activity. For instance, electronic communications might fall under a Administrative or General Correspondence series, a Budget Record series, or one of numerous other series, depending on the content, nature, and purpose of each message. Electronic communications that are created primarily to communicate information of short-term value, such as messages reminding employees about scheduled meetings or appointments, might fall under the Transitory Message series.
What is not a Public Record?
Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of blank forms are not included within the definition of records. Transitory messages (see below) are also not considered records. Disposal certificates are not needed to dispose of materials that are not public records.
What is a Transitory Message?
Transitory messages consist of material that is created primarily to communicate information of short-term value. These can include messages sent via email, instant messaging (IM), text messaging (SMS) or paper correspondence. Examples of transitory messages include, but are not limited to, reminders to employees about scheduled meetings or appointments; most telephone messages (whether in paper, voicemail or other electronic form); announcements of office events such as holiday parties or group lunches; and recipient copies of announcements of agency-sponsored events such as exhibits, lectures, workshops, etc. Transitory messages are not intended to formalize or perpetuate knowledge and do not set policy, establish guidelines or procedures, certify a transaction or become a receipt.
What is the penalty for violating the Local Records Act?
It can be a Class 4 Felony under the Illinois Criminal Code.
Can I make up my own retention policy or should we hire a consultant?
Only the Local Records Commission and Local Records Commission of Cook County can determine how long your agency must retain records. Under the Illinois Local Records Act, each unit of local government must submit an application that lists the records held by your agency.
The formal name for this form is called an Application for Authority to Dispose of Local Records. Each agency must have their own application. If you do not know if your agency has a previously approved application, first contact the head of your agency. If the head of your agency does not have the original signed application on file, then please call our office at 217-782-7075 or 217-782-7076 and we will check to see if your agency has ever filed an application with the Commission. We will either send you a copy of your application or schedule an appointment to have one of our Local Records Unit Field Representatives inventory your records and prepare an application for your agency.
If a transitory message meets the criteria to be defined as a public record under the Local Records Act, how long do we keep it?
If the messages have a bearing on actions or decisions taken or not taken, then they would be classified as a public record under the Local Records Act. Agencies would then be required to apply the appropriate retention period established by their Applications for Authority to Dispose of Local Records and submit a Local Records Disposal Certificate prior to the intended destruction of the records.
If a transitory message does not fall under the Local Records Act, do we still have to fill out a Local Records Disposal Certificate?
No. Examples of transitory messages which would not require the filing of a Local Records Disposal Certificate, include but are not limited to messages (whether in paper, voicemail or other electronic form) that are not intended to formalize or perpetuate knowledge and do not set policy, establish guidelines or procedures, certify a transaction or become a receipt; announcements of office events such as holiday parties or group lunches; and recipient copies of announcements of agency-sponsored events such as exhibits, lectures, workshops; reminders to employees about scheduled meetings or appointments; messages notifying agency personnel of incoming calls/messages and/or requesting return calls documenting no specific actions; etc.
When do Local Records Disposal Certificates Need to be submitted?
Thirty (30) days prior to the disposal or destruction of any records, regardless of physical format or characteristics, the head of the agency shall submit a Local Records Disposal Certificate to the Records Management Section of the Office of the Secretary of State and proceed with disposal only after a copy of that certificate has been reviewed and approved by the Records Management staff and returned to the agency. The original copy of this disposal certificate will be kept in the files of the Local Records Commission and the duplicate signed copy shall be retained permanently by the disposing agency.
Can we use a third party to store our records?
(50 ILCS 205/3a) (from Ch. 116, par. 43.103a)
Sec. 3a. Reports and records of the obligation, receipt and use of public funds of the units of local government and school districts, including certified audits, management letters and other audit reports made by the Auditor General, County Auditors, other officers or by licensed Certified Public Accountants permitted to perform audits under the Illinois Public Accounting Act and presented to the corporate authorities or boards of the units of local government, are public records available for inspection by the public. These records shall be kept at the official place of business of each unit of local government and school district or at a designated place of business of the unit or district. These records shall be available for public inspection during regular office hours except when in immediate use by persons exercising official duties which require the use of those records. The person in charge of such records may require a notice in writing to be submitted 24 hours prior to inspection and may require that such notice specify which records are to be inspected. Nothing in this Section shall require units of local government and school districts to invade or assist in the invasion of any person's right to privacy.
Who is to submit the Local Records Disposal Certificate?
At least 30 days before disposing of their records, agency chiefs shall fill out in duplicate a Local Records Disposal Certificate which shall show the date on which the records are to be disposed of, and the number of the application approved by the Local Records Commission authorizing the records destruction. This form shall be signed by the officer having jurisdiction over the records.
Can we scan our documents and/or microfilm them?
Local government agencies may microfilm or scan an original record and substitute it for the original if the scanned copies meet the guidelines of the Local Records Commissions or the rules and regulations for microfilming local government records.
The agency may dispose of the original of any reproduced record providing: (i) the reproduction process forms a durable medium that accurately and legibly reproduces the original record in all details, that does not permit additions, deletions, or changes to the original document images, and, if electronic, that are retained in a trustworthy manner so that the records, and the information contained in the records, are accessible and usable for subsequent reference at all times while the information must be retained, (ii) the reproduction is retained for the prescribed retention period, and (iii) the Commission is notified when the original record (see Filing a Local Records Disposal Certificate) is disposed of and also when the reproduced record is disposed of.
Cook County has a Commission separate from the other 101 counties. Agencies from Cook County must therefore follow the Rules and Regulations of the Local Records Commission of Cook County.
If I want to microfilm records what laws and rules apply?
The Illinois Local Records Act, the Filmed Records Certification Act and the Filmed Records Destruction Act apply to all local government agencies in Illinois. See:
- Local Records Act (50 ILCS ACT 205)
- Filmed Records Certification Act (50 ILCS 210)
- Filmed Records Destruction Act (50 ILCS 215)
For more information concerning storage of records on microfilm by all local government agencies outside of Cook County, see:
- Local Records Commission Rules - 44 Illinois Administrative Code, Part 4000.50 — Standards For The Reproduction Of Records By Microphotographic Processes With A View To The Disposal Of The Original Records.
- Local Records Commission Rules - 44 Illinois Administrative Code, Part 4000.60 — Minimum Standards of Quality for Permanent Record Photographic Microcopying Film.
For more information concerning storage of records on microfilm by all local government agencies in Cook County, see:
- Local Records Commission of Cook County Rules - 44 Illinois Administrative Code, Part 4500.50 — Standards For The Reproduction Of Records By Microphotographic And Electronic Microimaging Processes With A View To The Disposal Of The Original Records.
- Local Records Commission of Cook County Rules - 44 Illinois Administrative Code, Part 4500.60 &mdah; Minimum Standards of Quality for Permanent Record Photographic Microcopying Film.
When do we file a Local Records Disposal Certificate if we have filmed or scanned our documents and wish to replace the original with a microfilm copy or digital surrogate?
If you scan or microfilm an original document and wish to dispose of the original, a Local Records Disposal Certificate must be filed with our office thirty (30) days prior to the destruction of the original. On the Disposal Certificate listing the documents that have been filmed or scanned you will need to sign the microfilm/digital certification located in the lower left hand corner of the form and also sign the Disposal Certificate in the lower right hand corner of the form.
A Disposal Certificate is also to be filed thirty (30) days before the reproduced microfilm or digital record is disposed of. If you are disposing of scanned copies or microfilm please indicate after the record series title that these are microfilmed or scanned versions of the record and sign in the lower right hand corner of the form.
Disposal Certificates are to be retained permanently along with the agency's copy of their Application for Authority to Dispose of Local Records. Both documents are open records and should be available for public inspection at your agency.
Are there any rules regarding the destruction of local government agency records containing confidential information? Do we have to shred our records?
Neither Commission has adopted rules regarding this matter. However the Local Records Commission of Cook County has added the following policy statement to all recently approved applications:
"Subject to statutory provisions, agencies may dispose of records authorized for destruction by the Commission after the agency has received an approved Records Disposal Certificate from the Local Records Commission of Cook County listing the records to be destroyed or disposed of.
All records, regardless of physical format or characteristics, that by state or federal statute, agency rule, or policy contain information that is confidential, must be physically destroyed in a manner that such information cannot be identified or retrieved."
The Local Records Commission does not administer the Illinois Identity Protection Act; however, you may want to review it for more information regarding the protection of sensitive data by local government agencies.