August decision allows officials to immediately destroy many records
January 7, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty joined the growing chorus of organizations, newspapers, and the public in expressing frustration with the August decision of the State Public Records Board to expand the definition of “transitory” records, opening up government records retention policy to abuse by public officials.
According to Board guidance, Transitory Records are allegedly of such “temporary usefulness” that they require no retention period at all, and may therefore be instantly deleted. In August, the Board significantly – and secretly – expanded the definition of “transitory.” State officials have already used the change to justify the deletion of highly-pertinent text messages and other records.
WILL has submitted a letter to the Public Records Board expressing deep concern that the guidance and expanded definition of “transitory” gives too much latitude in determining what a transitory records is. The expansive definition allows officials to immediately destroy many records the public wants – and has the right – to see.
In the letter, WILL Deputy Counsel Thomas Kamenick noted that, “Allowing government officials to subjectively determine whether a particular government record can be destroyed is an invitation to abuse. There is no meaningful oversight of the destruction of records, and no enforcement mechanism like there is for the Open Records Law. Giving officials such discretion robs the sovereign people of their right to oversee government action.”
The letter asks the Public Records Board to not only return to the prior, narrower, definition of “transitory,” but to eliminate the exemption entirely and require all records to be retained for a minimum of one year.
The State Public Records Board will meet on January 11, 2016 in Madison at the Wisconsin Department of Justice located at:
17 West Main Street, Room 150A
Risser Justice Building
The meeting is open to the public and there will be a public comment period where anyone can speak out against the change.