A "records series" is a group of like, or related documents that are kept together. Examples include: personnel records, accounts receivables, deeds, wills, court case files, etc. In these examples, each group listed is a records series.
A retention and disposition schedule (also known as a "retention schedule") is the authority that lists records series and provides instructions and special guidelines for their care how long to preserve or retain them, how to maintain them, where and under whose custodianship, and when and under whose authority to dispose of them. By following a retention schedule, systematic control of information from its creation to final disposition is established. Different records series are required by law to be preserved or retained according to the length of time that they have administrative, legal, fiscal, historical or research value. For example, the minutes of all county commission meetings are to be kept permanently because of their high administrative and historical values; the certificates of rabies vaccinations for dogs, on the other hand, have less value and are to be kept for only three years, and then destroyed. Most records have a short lifespan, but others have longer retention periods for various reasons (e.g. special laws).
It is not acceptable for any office to keep records longer than their retention period dictates, even if there is room for them. Conversely, no record series found in an office, nor any part of a record series, may be destroyed before the time specified on the retention schedule.
General Retention Schedules
General retention schedules apply to common records found in any number of public offices, from the sheriff's office to the assessor's office to the circuit court (e.g. personnel files, purchasing records, etc.). There is one General Retention Schedule for all West Virginia counties, each of which has similar offices that generate similar records.
All retention schedules, general or specific, carry the force of law.
Specific Retention Schedules
Specific retention schedules are schedules that apply to records specific to a particular office in each county. For example, records on firearm purchases would be specific to the sheriff's office, deeds are specific to the county clerk's office, and circuit court case files would be specific to circuit court clerks. Specific schedules have been in place for circuit court clerks and magistrate court clerks since the 1990s.
NOTE: For those offices that lack specific schedules, the State Archives will develop initial drafts for the Records Management and Preservation Board to issue for thirty-day comment period by various county government offices. The board will then consider this and issue the final schedule which will carry the force of law. Once issued, specific schedules can be amended accordingly to clarify unforseen retention issues or to address new needs and circumstances by completing the Proposal for Specific Schedules form and submitting it to the State Archives for approval.
Specific schedules serve several functions. Primary among them is the establishment of the office of origin. The responsibility for the content of records listed on the Specific Schedules rests with the creators of those records. Duplicates may be found in other offices, but duplicates are retained for briefer periods, and they are not the "official" records of those transactions. It is important to remember that if the retention period of a number of records is, say, five years, ALL copies of those records must be destroyed. NOTE: Questions, clarifications, or to discuss a specific record series should be referred to the State Archives.
Amending/ Updating the Specific Schedules
Amendments to Specific Schedules can cover many circumstances:
- Some functions in an office may cease to be performed, so that the records that track those functions are rendered obsolete.
- Some functions may be added to particular offices, necessitating the creation of new records to track them.
A Proposal for Specific Schedules form is obtained from the State Archives and completed for each records series and returned to the State Archives. The State Archives will review the request and, if statutorily and per standards reviewable, implement the process to amend and approve or reject based on a thirty-day comment period and RMPB action.
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Records Management and Preservation Board