Setting the e-discovery record straight

There are two problematic statements in "Next up, e-discovery challenges." First, the statement, "In the absence of specific requirements for retention, however, an agency must use its own discretion," is entirely false. In Michigan – and in the federal government and many, if not all, other states -- a retention schedule is a legal document, not a guideline that agencies follow because they feel like it. The default retention period for a public record is permanent and only a schedule can authorize its destruction. This means that in the absence of a retention schedule, agencies cannot use their own discretion. They must keep the record until they get a schedule to authorize its destruction.

Second, setting e-mail retention schedules at 21 days, 90 days, 120 days or any other time frame is wrong. We don't keep all paper for the same amount of time, and it is absurd to think we should keep all e-mail for one defined time frame. Record retention periods are established based on the content of the record, not its format. If the e-mail relates to a contract, keep it as long as any other contract record. If the e-mail relates to a personnel matter, keep it as long as any other personnel record.

Caryn Wojcik
Michigan Records Management Services

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