Records Management FAQ

Public Records

1. What is the definition of a public record?

What is the definition of a Public Record?

  • All documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software or other material.
  • Regardless of physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission.
  • Made or received in accordance with law or in connection with the official business of an agency.
2. How long must an agency keep a public record?

Consult our General Records Schedules. 

General Records Schedules

3. What are general records schedules and how can my agency get copies of them?

General records schedules provide minimum retention periods for categories of records likely to be maintained by a large number of agencies. 

The General Records Schedules for State and Local Government Agencies (GS1-SL) includes personnel files, payroll records, correspondence files and legal records. 

The GS2 - GS15 apply to common program records of specific types of agencies or functions, such as tax collectors, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, hospitals, educational institutions and public libraries. 

Use any applicable schedules along with GS1-SL to cover as many administrative and program records as possible. 

You are not allowed to reduce the retention period. You may retain your records longer if you choose, or if your accrediting organization requires it. 

  • General Records Schedules
    • To acquire a hard copy, call 850.245.6750, or fax a written request to 850.245.6795. 
  • Find the Records Retention Schedule and other forms and publications
4. I have reviewed the General Records Schedules which pertain to my agency and cannot find a particular record series. What do I do?
  • Check under any closely related titles.
    • For example, for hiring records, check under such similar terms as "employment," "personnel," "applications," and "search committee."
  • If the record is NOT in a General Records Schedule, check with your agency's Records Management Liaison Officer.
  • If your agency has not already scheduled these records on an agency individual records schedule, your RMLO will need to submit a Request for Records Retention Schedule (PDF) to the Division.

Records Management Liaison Officers

5. What is a Records Management Liaison Officer?

Every agency is required to appoint an RMLO to serve as primary point of contact between the Division of Library and Information Services, Records Management program (257.36(5)(a), Florida Statutes. 

Read about RMLO's. 

To appoint an RMLO, submit an appointment form (PDF) to us under signature of the records custodian indicating who the RMLO for your agency will be. 

6. What are the RMLO's responsibilities?

Read about our recommendations for your agency's RMLO. 

 

Training, Consultation, Instructional Materials

7. Do you offer records management training, consultation or instructional materials?

We offer a series of annual training seminars and specialty workshops around the state. 

We will send a representative to visit your agency for training or consulting services. Call us at 850.245.6746, or email rmtraining@dos.myflorida.com

We publish records management handbooks. You can find these on our Forms and Publications page. 

Dispose of Public Records

8. How does an agency go about destroying public records? Is there a preferred method of destruction?

Destroy records:

  • In accordance with retention schedules.
  • If all outstanding audit issues and litigation are resolved. 
  • At least 30 days after last public records request.   

Read about the destruction of public records in the Florida Administrative Code

You may choose to recycle, shred, incinerate or bury documents. There are vendors throughout Florida who can handle this on your behalf. 

We cannot recommend a particular vendor. We caution you to thoroughly investigate each option. Give special consideration to records of a sensitive, confidential or exempt nature. 

Many firms offer tours of their facilities, client references, and contractual assurances which guarantee the security of the record until its final disposition.

Some firms will send a certificate of destruction to your RMLO providing proof of the final disposition. These certificates should be retained by your agency along with your records disposition documentation as back-up or supporting material.

 

9. Do we need approval from the Division to destroy public records that have met their retention requirements?

No. However, you must:

  • Ensure records have met all retention requirements before disposing of them.
  • Maintain internal documentation of records dispositions.
  • Submit to the Division an Annual Compliance Statement to help the Division report records management compliance to the Governor and the Legislature. 
10. Does our agency have to document disposition of records that are not destroyed?

Yes. Disposition of public records should be documented as discussed above whether the records are destroyed, reformatted to microfilm or digital format and the originals destroyed, or transferred to another Florida government agency.

Noncompliance

11. Are there penalties for noncompliance with Chapters 119 & 257 of the Florida Statutes?

Yes.

  • Violation of Section 119.10(1) of the Florida Statues is a noncriminal infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding $500.00. 
  • Section 119.10(2), F.S., states that “[a]ny person who willfully and knowingly violates: (a) Any of the provisions of this chapter commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.(b) Section 119.105 commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.” Third degree felonies are punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.00 and/or up to 5 years in prison (for habitual felony offenders, up to 10 years in prison).
12. What are the other possible problems associated with noncompliance?
  • If you keep records beyond their retention period, you will spend money that could be available for other program needs.
  •  Without properly scheduling and disposing of your records you will not have a professional audit trail that could be beneficial in litigation.
    • Controversial documents more likely to be located by opposing counsel if they are kept past retention requirements.
    • Opposing counsel will take advantage of lack of organization and management of records.
  • Your agency may not be trusted to provide for the public’s right of access to public records.
  • Government employees work in a highly scrutinized environment; the press and public respond quickly to allegations of fraud, abuse, or mismanagement.