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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Temporary Records

Reference Number: MTAS-474
Reviewed Date: 11/08/2022

If a record must be kept for some reason after its initial use, then it is at least a temporary record. Temporary records are officially defined as “... material which can be disposed of in a short period of time as being without value in documenting the functions of an agency.” [1] Financial and payroll records are good examples. Payroll records have fulfilled their immediate purpose once your employees receive their checks. But those records must be kept in order to comply with federal statutes and regulations and are important documents in the case of an audit. [2] Once a temporary record has been retained for the period described in the schedule, then, like a working paper, it may be destroyed in accordance with the rules and regulations adopted by the city’s governing body or municipal public records commission. These rules should require approval of the city archivist (if there is one), city attorney, city recorder, city manager (if there is one), head of the department and mayor before the records are destroyed.

Alternative Formats for Temporary Records

Generally speaking, if you are keeping a record for only five years or less, it is not cost efficient to microfilm the original paper records or convert them to other media. But certain records that are “temporary” actually have a rather lengthy retention period. Many court records must be kept 10 years, and employee earning records that may be used for computing retirement benefits are kept for the approximate life of the employee.

Even though these records do not have to be kept permanently, you may find it useful to convert them to other, more compact formats for storage and destroy the paper originals shortly after the alternative format is created. Microfilming or electronic storage of these long- term temporary records can be ideal solutions to storage space problems. The governing body or municipal public records commission should adopt a policy requiring approval prior to the destruction of original paper documents. It is not necessary to notify Library and Archives of the destruction of original copies of records of temporary value.

[1] T.C.A. §10-7-301

[2] See the following discussion entitled Special Consideration for more information about audit records.