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Records Management

In order to manage our records in an efficient manner, streamline the paper flow, provide for document archiving, minimize the temporary storage constraints, and remain in compliance with the California Public Records Act, the City has implemented a Citywide Records Retention Schedule pursuant to Resolution No. 05-98 adopted by the City Council on June 21, 2005 and as amended by City Council Resolutions:

Forms and Policies



Frequently Asked Questions

Active Records – Records that are referred to at least once a month per cubic foot of records. Also – As a retention period for a Perpetual Record that remains "active" until some event occurs to change its status, at which time it has fulfilled its function. (See also Perpetual Record)

Administrative Records – Records commonly found in all offices and used in the conduct of daily business. These are typically retained for short time periods. Examples include subject, chronological, work plans, and policy files.

Archival Records – Records with enduring value because they reflect significant historical events, document the history and development of an agency, or provide valuable research data.

Damaged Records – Records that have been damaged by water, fire, and other forms of contamination during natural and man-made disasters. Dependent on the severity of the damage, records may be recovered or may need to be declared unrecoverable and destroyed.

Discovery – The pretrial disclosure of pertinent facts or documents by one or both parties to a civil action or proceeding. Anything requested during discovery must be disclosed if it exists – even non-records and records that should have been destroyed earlier. Discovery effectively freezes selected holdings until released by the opposing attorney or the court.

Email – Short for electronic mail, the transmission of messages over communications networks. The messages can be notes entered from the keyboard or may include attachments of electronic files stored on disk.

Inactive Records – Records that are accessed an average of less than once per month per cubic foot of records, but that have not completed their full retention period. These records may be stored in a separate location from active files. Also – a Perpetual Record that has fulfilled its function. (See also Perpetual Record)

Local Government – Government Code, Section 6252 states: "’Local Agency’ includes a county; city, whether general law or chartered; city and county; school district; municipal corporation; district; political subdivision; or any board, commission or agency thereof; other local public agency; or nonprofit entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency pursuant to subdivisions (c) and (d) of Government Code, Section 54952."

Non-Records – Materials not kept in the ordinary course of business, such as transitory documents, voicemail, e-mail, unofficial copies of documents kept only for convenience or reference, working papers, stocks of publications and blank forms, and library or museum material intended solely for reference or exhibition. Also, documents such as rough notes, calculations or drafts assembled or created and used in the preparation or analysis of other documents. NOTE: A draft that contains substantive comments from a project applicant, an applicant’s attorney, consultant or agent, should be treated as a record of comments received from that source, and the draft or portions showing the substantive comments should ordinarily be retained accordingly (as amended by Resolution 05-185). (See also Discovery)

Permanent Records – Records that are required to be kept in perpetuity, usually identified by statute or other written guidance. Examples include original minutes, ordinances, resolutions, land grant deeds, etc.

Perpetual Records – Records retained as active files for an indefinite period of time and then stored or destroyed after some event takes place. Examples include personnel files which are active until a person terminates his employment; policy files kept until the policy is changed; contract files that are active until the contract terminates, then destroyed a fixed number of years later; current database information until it is superseded; etc.

Program Records – Records that relate to the primary function of the agency in response to its daily mission. Examples include lien files, recorders files, election files, probate records, medical records, etc.

Public Records – For purposes of the California Public Records Act, any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics (as amended by Resolution 05-185).

Records– A thing which constitutes an objective, lasting indication of a writing, event, or other information which is in the custody of a public officer and was kept because it is necessary or convenient to the discharge of the public officer’s duties and was made or retained for the purpose of preserving its informational content for future reference. Substantive written communications from individuals or entities who are not City employees, officials, or contractors would ordinarily be considered records (as amended by Resolution 05-185).

Records Retention Schedule– A list of all records produced or maintained by an agency and the actions taken with regards to those records. A retention schedule is an agency’s legal authority to receive, create, retain, and dispose of official public records. It assists the agency by documenting which records require office or temporary storage, which records have historic or research value, and which records should be destroyed because they no longer have any administrative, fiscal, historical, or legal value. In the event of litigation, courts accept a retention schedule as establishing an agency’s "normal course of doing business".

Retention Period – The length of time a record must be retained to fulfill its administrative, fiscal historical and/or legal function. Then a record should be disposed of as soon as possible in accordance with an approved Records Retention Schedule.

Software – any system, program, application, instruction, or protocol designed to store, control or process data.

Vital Records – records required for daily operations and to resume those operations after a disaster. A Vital Records program protects records from the effects of the disaster and assists in recovery from the event.
General Records Management
Official records are comprised of a collection of documentation, including legislative, historic, legal, fiscal and administrative documents, as well as vital records. Records management entails administering various document formats such as correspondence, mail, emails, faxed material, historical reference, and with the technical age, electronic media.

Records management archiving is a conventional method of safeguarding history for the benefit of education, accessibility to research and preservation of valuable fiscal, legal and administrative information. As the records management system for the City of Monterey includes a vast array of elements, it is incumbent upon each department to ensure proper safekeeping and destruction pursuant to the criteria set forth herein.

Statutory references are legal citations setting forth the retention and destruction guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the records are maintained legally and efficiently. Records that are not appropriately maintained or improperly destroyed expose the City to potential liability.

In all instances that documentation of destruction is required, the Authorization to Destroy Obsolete Records must be completed and signed by the Department Head and City Attorney. This form serves as a permanent record, and would be utilized in any legal proceedings as evidence of proper destruction.

California Government Code Section 34090.5 sets forth that if a record series can be produced electronically and proper archival methods are set in place, the original may be destroyed, with the exception of those documents that are required to be kept permanently in their original format as outlined in the retention schedule.

It is the goal of the City to move toward an electronic imaging program. Until an electronic system is in place, a concerted effort will be made to adhere to the retention schedule and to destroy all appropriate records that are being stored in various facilities throughout the City, and prepare archival material for electronic filing. Preparation of archival material will include indexing according to the Monterey’s citywide Unified Functional Filing System. Once an electronic imaging or other acceptable system has been installed, and training has been provided, all departments will manage the backlogged materials and proceed with proper archiving or destruction pursuant to the requirements in the retention schedule under the leadership of the City Clerk’s Office. This process will eliminate a large number of storage boxes and release space for other uses, as well as bring our records management program into full compliance.

In most cases, records not addressed in the attached schedule should be considered routine in nature and would be identified as general information under a specific record series. Retention for those files would be two (2) years unless specific laws, decisions or opinions apply to that record series. Transitory correspondence files, consisting of correspondence, routine transactions, memoranda or e-mails holding no administrative, fiscal, historical or legal value should not be filed in working files. Examples of transitory documents may be, but are not limited to transmittal letters, forms, e-mails (see section on e-mail below), requests for routine information or publications, announcements, and other documents not requiring action by the receiving office. Documents that are not transitory in nature, not addressed in this schedule, and for which there are legal requirements or the record is essential either for legal, historical, fiscal or administrative value, shall have a record series number and title assigned to them and added to the retention schedule. The retention schedule is not a permanently fixed document, but flexible in nature to accommodate legal, administrative, or fiscal policy changes. Contact the City Clerk’s Department for review of any requested changes.
Email Retention Policy
(as amended by Resolution 05-185)

It is the City’s policy that City email and email systems are intended to be a medium of communication. City email systems are not intended to be and may not be used for the electronic storage or maintenance of City records. The email system, to function as intended, anticipates or requires that employees regularly delete communications from the system.

Email messages and attachments comparable to hard copy documents that would be retained under this policy should be retained as follows: The document must be categorized in the appropriate record series and converted to the appropriate electronic format or printed in hard copy and retained for the required time period as outlined in the Monterey Records Retention/Disposition Schedule. No matter what form in which the record is retained, proper procedures as outlined in Monterey’s Records Retention Policy must be followed prior to the destruction of any record.

Routine email messages comparable to telephonic communications are non-records. They are not intended to be retained in the ordinary course of City business, and the informational content of such communications is neither necessary nor intended to be preserved for future City use or reference. Each user will have the responsibility to remove such non-records from folders within Monterey’s Google GMail electronic mail system on a rolling sixty-day schedule. This includes items in “received” and “sent” folders as well as any folders set up by individual users. Upon removal from Google GMail the non-records will be disposed of in the City’s ordinary course of business. An e-mail is considered destroyed as soon as it has been deleted from a user’s mailbox, even though it is temporarily stored in the trash folder before being purged from the e-mail system. This action is analogous to throwing a paper document into an office trashcan. Digital email back-up tapes are destroyed in three weeks.

Each email user will be trained in the application and implementation of this policy.

This policy does not prohibit employees from maintaining temporary working files or folders to allow for quick reference to recent emails.
Retention of Electronic Data and Databases
With the increased use of electronic data, attention to the retention requirements for electronic records becomes extremely important. Other than Revenue Procedure 91-59, which recognizes electronic data interchange records and specifies that these records may be retained in electronic form unless a visible record is requested by a tax auditor, no other law at this time requires an organization to maintain both the electronic and hard copy form of the same information. You may, therefore, maintain records in any form unless the law either specifies the form or restricts the forms that can be used.


Databases consist of electronic files and fields of data that provide useful information to the organization Typically, databases are modified over time through the addition, deletion, or modification of records. Reports are periodically prepared to reflect information from the databases that may be useful for specific purposes. Due to the large volume of information maintained in databases, reports rarely reflect all the information found in the database. Backups of databases, which are stored on City servers, are performed daily and would be used to restore the databases in case of accidental erasure or disaster.

Databases maintained by the City could include financial information, mailing lists, customer information, employee information, work order tracking, marketing information, records management information, etc. Since reports typically do not reflect the entire content of the database, the electronic form of the database contains different information than the visible reports. Electronic databases are often more useful than the paper reports, so visible reports are not equivalent to electronic databases.

For records retention purposes, a database is an official record of the organization. The retention period is established as ‘until superseded (SUP)" to reflect that only the current version needs to be maintained. Daily digital backup tapes are destroyed after four (4) days; weekly backup tapes are destroyed every three (3) weeks; and monthly backup tapes are destroyed on a rolling twelve-month cycle. Periodic reports, which are produced in hard copy format from a database and used for administrative, fiscal, legal or historical purposes, may be official records. These reports must be maintained for the requisite retention period according to the particular records series they are assigned. For example, the City’s annual Budget Report is a "snapshot" of our financial position at the end of the fiscal year, and is used to inform Council (legal), staff (administrative) and citizens (legal & historical). That snapshot must be retained for its designated retention period to reflect operational needs.
Word Processing Files
Many organizational documents are prepared using word processing. A draft of the document is generally typed into the word processing system from hand-written notes or other materials, or transcribed from automated dictation devices. The word processing document is then printed and revised until the final printed version is accepted by the author.

For records retention purposes, the original notes and recorded media from dictation are non-records or work-in-progress. This version should be destroyed in a relatively short period of time after the final draft has been accepted. Similarly, successive drafts of a document and the successive revisions of the electronic word processing file are non-records or work-in-progress. Only the final approved, paper record should be considered an official organization document.

If the final product of the word processing process is a communication in an electronic mail system, the communication will only become an official record of the organization if the formalization process discussed above is followed.

For operational reasons, you may want to maintain some of the electronic-word processing files for extended periods of time to facilitate the revision of drafts. These decisions should be made based upon the importance of the final document produced and the likelihood of revision or use of the material for other purposes. The word processing operator would then destroy the computer version when it is no longer needed.

Note: Lawyers sometimes argue for the preservation of multiple drafts of contracts. They argue that problems with a final contract can often be resolved by determining the party’s intent through the use of previous drafts. The City’s policy prohibits the consideration of previous drafts or other information that has not been incorporated into this final written document. Therefore, drafts and earlier versions of the computer files related to each draft should not be kept — only the most current version.

Word processing computer information is treated differently than databases. The computer information from a word processing file is printed letter-for-letter onto a final paper document, which in many instances is then signed. In essence, the paper document "mirrors" the information in the word processing systems and may contain authorizing signatures, so only the most useful version — the printed, paper version — becomes the official record and is retained in the normal course of business.
Public Records Requests
Pursuant to California Government Code Section 6250, the California Public Records Act, the City of Monterey shall respond to public records requests. Any person may inspect or receive a copy of identifiable public records. Requests will be reasonably responded to at the earliest opportunity permitted by current workloads and priorities. Staff will produce readily available documents on request. In the event that a response is going to take longer, we must notify the requesting party, in writing, within 10 days of receipt of the original request. The notification will include whether we can produce the documents, whether anything is exempt, and the approximate amount of time that will be required to provide the information requested. Any denial to view records must be in writing, include the reason for non-disclosure and cite the specific exemption under the CPRA or other state or federal law. If applicable, the denial notice must demonstrate that on balance there is a predominant public interest in non-disclosure under Section 6255, and include the name and title of the official responsible for denying access.

Staff will make every effort to assist members of the public in making a focused and effective request. To the extent reasonable under the circumstances, staff will assist the member of the public to identify records and information that are responsive to the request or its purpose; describe the information technology and physical location in which the records exist; and provide suggestions for overcoming any practical basis for denying access to the records or information sought.
While the department of record can fulfill routine Public Records Act requests, the City Attorney’s Office coordinates most requests. Formal requests for public records that are likely to require coordination with multiple departments must be routed immediately upon receipt to the City Attorney's Office for review and instruction. A City Attorney staff person will contact the departments that might have records pertaining to each request and ask the department to "pull" those files. The City Attorney’s staff will then review the files to ensure that all of the enclosed documents are relevant to the request and subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act then make an appointment at a reasonable time for the requester to see the files. When there is any question regarding whether a record is subject to disclosure, no records or copies thereof should be released until this review process has been completed.

The City Attorney’s Office will officially respond to subpoenas for records in a similar fashion, working with individual departments and coordinating a response.

In the event that a public records request is made of a department for specific information related only to that department, it is recommended that the request form provided on the next page be utilized for the transaction. This form ensures that all the information to be produced is properly identified, and serves as a record of the timeline and staff assisting with the request.

A copy charge of 10¢ per page, in addition to other authorized fees the department may charge for plans, specifications, etc., may be charged, but you may not charge for the staff time utilized to compile, research and produce the documentation for a Public Records Act request.
Disaster Prevention and Damaged Records Recovery Policy
It is the policy of the City of Monterey to insure that its records are identified and protected as much as humanly possible from natural and man-made disasters. This policy applies to all employees who create, receive and maintain City records. The administrative procedures described below afford the City the most efficient and cost effective method for protecting City records and recovering records when disasters occur.

To prevent damage:

  • Do not store records in loose stacks on desks or on top of file cabinets
  • Do not store records in a basement or an attic
  • Do not store records near water pipes or air conditioning
  • Do not store records near a heat source
  • Do not store record storage boxes on the floor
  • Do not store record storage boxes on top of each other
  • Do store records in file cabinets or in file drawers inside desks
  • Do store vital records or copies of vital records in an alternate location
  • Do store record storage boxes on shelves off the floor
  • Do properly label file cabinets and record storage boxes (e.g. include series numbers, quantity of files, beginning and end range of records, and date range for records)
  • Do maintain and update an inventory of records and record storage locations


Properly labeling file cabinets and file storage boxes is essential for reporting disaster damage. In the event that records are damaged, City employees must assess the damage, perform recovery procedures, and when necessary report records that are unrecoverable to the City Attorney's Office. Actions necessary to recover documents can range from simply air-drying paper records to hiring restoration specialists for severely damaged records of various media types.

To recover records after a disaster:

  • Complete a Damaged Records Assessment Report.
  • Complete a Records Disaster Recovery Worksheet as recovery actions are taken.
  • If necessary, consult recovery specialists.
  • For records that cannot be recovered, complete an Authorization to Destroy Unrecoverable Damaged Records Form and send to the City Attorney for approval before destroying damaged records.
Legend to Retention Schedule
B&P – California Business and Professions Code   H&S – California Health & Safety Code
CAC – California Administrative Code HUD – Housing and Urban Development
CCP – Code of Civil Procedure OSHA – Occupational Safety & Health Act
CCR – Code of California Regulations LC – California Labor Code
CEQA – California Environmental Quality Act OMB – Federal Office of Management & Budget
CFR – Code of Federal Regulations PC – Penal Code
EC – California Elections Code R&T – Revenue & Taxation Code
FC – California Finance Code UFC – Uniform Fire Code
FLMA – Family & Medical Leave Act USC – United States Code
GC – California Government Code WIC – Welfare & Institutions Code
Retention Period Codes Format Codes
A/E – After Expiration D - Database
Au – Audit E - Electronic/Image File
C – While Current/Until Completed HC - Paper/Hard Copy
D/R – Destroy When No Longer Relevant I – Image/Electronic File
P – Permanent M – Microfilm
T – Until Termination  
Department of Record (DoR) Codes  
CA – City Attorney HR – Human Resources 
CC – City Council IR – Information Resources
CM – City Manager LB – Library
CS – Community Services  PD – Police
FF – Finance PW – Plans Public Works
FD - Fire