Dear White House: Record Retention is a Big Deal

During the George W. Bush Administration, an investigation found that senior White House Staff were using Republican National Committee (RNC)  email accounts to conduct official business.  The problem was that these emails were not preserved as required by the Presidential Records Act.  How many emails?   Approximately 22 million emails were destroyed.

The Committee on Oversight and Government wants to ensure that history does not repeat itself and records are retained properly in 2017.

Earlier this month, White House counsel received a letter from the leadership of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.   The letter hit on important topics:  record retention, social media and requested that steps be taken to ensure emails and other forms of communication or messages are archived and preserved under the Presidential Records Act.

What is the Presidential Records Act?

The Act gives guidance on the disposition of records created or received by the President, Vice President, immediate staff and individuals in the Executive Office who advise or assist the President.   The goal of the Act is to provide transparency and to ensure that the official business of the federal government is preserved and accessible.

For example, if a federal employee covered by this Act were to send a work related email through a personal email account, he or she must copy the official email account or forward the email to the official email account within 20 days.

The law doesn’t just apply to email, but any form of electronic communication where an official record might be created.   The letter is also quick to point out that the Act isn’t satisfied by just ensuring that a communication is secure.   For instance, if the covered employee uses an encrypted form of communication the content’s security is certainly heightened which is a good thing.  However, such action does not circumvent the sender’s responsibilities under the Act, i.e. there still needs to be an official record of the communication.

And don’t forget about Twitter because tweets are a form of communication and just might count as official business as well.   In fact, the President’s two Twitter accounts were referenced in the letter to further emphasize the drafter’s intent.

Businesses can benefit from a sound record retention policy.  While every business may not have an oversight committee to remind employees of the rules, business leaders can continue to train teams on proper retention rules and bring awareness to potential issues.  Read more.

Courtney Labadie

Director of Legal Compliance

As Director of Legal Compliance, Courtney is responsible for ensuring corporate compliance and risk mitigation measures are in place at Lumen Legal. Her responsibilities include contract review, drafting and negotiation and the development and implementation of corporate policies, procedures and training to support sales and recruitment services. In addition, she drafts proposals and responds to RFPs, provides guidance on legal questions and ensures processes are in place for the effective deployment of services, in order to achieve superior client and candidate satisfaction.

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