Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention
The last installment of this series addresses something that can be disastrous for a city. If not handled properly, manager desk files can wreak havoc with the city personnel system as well as be an issue in regards to open records requests and lawsuits.
The debate over whether manager desk files should be permitted is a long-standing issue. Personnel records, as well as any other city-generated document, should be kept at city hall as the city clerk, by statute, is the custodian of all city records. If managers do have desk files, they need to be certain that the original document is maintained by the city clerk and that only a copy is contained within their files. Managers also need to be aware that any confidential records must be securely maintained. In many cases, this requires that managers be trained on what is confidential and what is considered an open record.
Personnel policies should also address this issue and provide guidance on how the desk files will be maintained, if they are allowed at all. Explanations in regards to statutory requirements should be given so that managers fully understand the importance of these procedures.
Lastly, be aware that manager desk files are also discoverable in the event of a lawsuit. Because of this, managers need to know what is and is not acceptable in regards to their recordkeeping. A periodic review of what a manager is keeping can assist a city in addressing potential issues before they arise.
For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.