SPR Bulletin 04-94

TO: Public Records Custodians
SUBJECT: Security and Custody of Records Created Outside the Town Hall
EXPIRATION DATE: Until superseded
PURPOSE: This bulletin provides guidance and requirements for security and custody of municipal records created outside of Town Hall.

Municipal governments have a fundamental obligation to provide secure storage for their records and make them accessible to the general public. Business in some municipalities must be conducted outside town hall; this may lead to situations where records are used and stored outside the premises of a municipal building in unsecured space, leading, in some instances, to alienation of the record. In some instances, original records are removed from a municipal building by a records custodian and stored in a private home or office. Such practices may jeopardize the security and accessibility of the records and hinder proper records management procedures.

The Supervisor of Public Records is responsible for seeing that the records of the Commonwealth, counties, cities and towns are put in the custody and condition required by law and securing their preservation. See G. L. 66, § 1 (the Supervisor's responsibility to ensure preservation of the records of the Commonwealth, counties, cities and towns). Municipal officials are responsible for the safekeeping of records in their custody. See G. L. 66, §§ 11 and 12. Therefore, the Supervisor directs municipal officials to take the following actions to provide security for and access to public records.

1. Whenever original public records are removed from a municipal office by a records custodian for use in the regular course of business in a private office or home, they shall be stored in fire resistant devices and safes provided by the municipality.

2. If a custodian cannot insure fire resistant storage outside the municipal building then no original records may be removed. However, the custodian may create copies of records for use in a private office or home.

3. Whenever original records are created outside the municipal offices, they shall be transferred on a regular and frequent basis to secure storage in the municipal building. If secure storage is available in the custodian's private office or home, then copies of records shall be made and stored in the municipal building.

4. Whenever a records custodian finds it necessary to work in another location other that the municipal building, he shall make himself available during regular posted office hours at a location convenient to the public.

5. Whenever an official relinquishes his office, he shall deliver over to his successor all such records he is not authorized by law to retain. See G. L. c. 66, § 14.

Questions regarding access to public records should be directed to:

Public Records Division
1 Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
Phone 617-727-2832
Fax 617-727-5914
Email pre@sec.state.ma.us

Questions regarding this bulletin should be directed to:

Records Management Unit
Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816
Fax 617-288-8429
Email recman@sec.state.ma.us