Disposing of Public Records
Records are indispensable to the efficient and economical operation of government. They serve as the governmental memory; they are the evidence of past events and the basis for future actions. When records are created, maintained, and disposed of in a systematic and orderly fashion, they are a tremendous asset.
All public records have a specific value – whether administrative, fiscal, legal, historical, transitory, or produced by an outside source. Some are so vital to an agency’s operation that they must be preserved for perpetuity. Based on a record’s value, state and local governments adhere to retention schedules which determine how long the public record must be kept.
When records are no longer needed, they may be disposed of in a legally prescribed fashion — but only after the State or Local Government Records Committees have approved their disposal.
State Government Records
If you want to dispose of state records, deadhead or mail a signed original Records Disposal Request Form (RM-5) to:
State Government Records Committee
SOS Records Management Bureau
P.O. Box 202805
Helena MT 59620-2805
Local Government Records
According to 2-6-1205, MCA, local officials must give 60 days notice to certain interested parties before destroying any record that is 10 years old or older. The law prioritizes the parties to be notified in this order:
- The Montana Historical Society
- The State Archives
- Montana public and private universities and colleges
- Local historical museums
- Local historical societies
- Montana genealogical groups, and
- The general public.
If none of these entities claims the record within 60 days, the record may be destroyed as prescribed by state law.
For a searchable list of records currently made available subject to the 60 day notice requirement go to http://lists.mt.gov/read/?forum=recordsdisposal.
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1. Complete a Request and Authorization for Records Disposal or Transfer Authorizationform (Fillable Word or PDF). Agency is responsible to indicate whether the records are confidential or meet the 10-year rule requirement (see 2-6-1205, MCA).
2. Obtain authorized signatures and send the form to:
Local Government Services Bureau
P.O. Box 200547
Helena MT 59620-0547
If records meet the 10-year rule requirement, Records and Information Management will post the records title(s) and disposal years on the 60 day notification listserve.
3. If contacted during the 60-day period, transfer the records to the requesting party. The requesting party is required to pay all costs associated with the transfer. The Local Government Records Committee recommends that each local government agency draft its own policy to handle situations in which more than one party requests a specific record.
More information about record disposal is available from Records and Information Management at the Secretary of State's Office, (406) 444-9000 or e-mail email@example.com.