Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap told a legislative committee Friday that he will immediately begin to implement recommendations from a working group that found that the state’s records retention program is in disarray

The Secretary of State’s Office oversees the State Archives, which is responsible for keeping or discarding public records.

Dunlap said he plans to work with the governor’s office to fill vacancies on the State Archives Advisory Board and will find the resources to support regular board meetings. That board is supposed to help the state and municipalities deal with retention policies, but it’s been all but defunct. Of the nine seats, five are filled with people whose terms expired years ago and four are vacant. 

“We need to get them functioning a couple of times a month,” Dunlap told the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee.

Dunlap said he will also direct state agencies to assign records officers, designated employees who handle records-retention issues within the office and make sure co-workers know what should be kept or destroyed. If an agency doesn’t name a records officer, Dunlap said, he will refuse to take records from that agency.

Although such officers are required, the working group found that 60 percent of state agencies and departments didn’t have one. 

That working group was convened last year at the request of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee in the wake of a state CDC document-shredding probe. The group issued its 56-page report two weeks ago.

Dunlap told the committee Friday that he agrees with the working group’s report, calling it “comprehensive and an extremely helpful guide in making our offices a greater resource for the public.”

He said the State Archives faces a number of challenges, including a small staff, little money and a rapidly changing digital world.  

“What remains is where we are, which is falling short of state law,” he said.

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