Seaports Magazine - Spring 2014 - (Page 29)

» GUEST VIEWPOINT Comprehensive Records Retention Plan a Must for Ports By Steve M. Lewis President and CEO SML, Inc. I t is easy for the busy executive to overlook the necessity of destroying records when administrative, legal, fiscal or historical value has expired. A large industry likely bangs on your door wanting to do something with your data - image, store or content manage. Yet, the most cost-effective and economical solution for most data is simply destruction based on approved record retentions. A retention schedule is an expression of the relative value of the data. Most data loses value very quickly, usually within five years. Exceptions include contracts, leases, record drawings and personnel files. But again, only based on approved retention schedules in the presence of due diligence and not intuitive assumptions. To address the complexities associated with this issue, a comprehensive, systematic records and information management plan is an essential component of any port, public or private, headed by a records officer reporting directly to senior management with sufficient authority to mandate the effort. There will be much resistance throughout the port to the idea records should be destroyed. Generally, records means all data regardless of physical form or characteristics or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business. For public agency ports, an administrative entity generally will define the public record and may even provide retention schedules. For private ports, the port must define the corporate record and establish the retention schedules. Email often engenders considerable confusion relative to retention. Email is also a most popular target for records requests or production. Retentions are not written Scheduling is the heart of the records program. For the records program to be legally sufficient, the scheduling process must be documented and approved. for media types. Email is a media type and has no specific retention. Retention is content driven. Scheduling is the heart of the records program. For the records program to be legally sufficient, the scheduling process must be documented and approved. The program must be systematic and comprehensive. To selectively apply the program is to invite adverse inference in litigation. The program also must be developed during the normal course of business, not developed for specific records for specific reasons. The working papers used to develop the program, and especially those used to develop the retention schedules, must be maintained permanently. Each retention schedule and disposition document must be approved and signed through a regular process. As retention periods are met, the records must be destroyed and documented on a disposition list. Spoliation is the intentional destruction or significant alteration of evidence. When spoliation is established, an inference may be drawn that the evidence destroyed was unfavorable to the party responsible for its destruction - the spoliator. Spoliation can constitute obstruction of justice and can result in sanctions in court. If it rises to the level of attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the court, it may result in the dismissal of an action or other summary judgment. Careful adherence to approved retention schedules and correct application of the port's disposition list will virtually eliminate the potential for spoliation. Therefore, the disposition list must represent actual destruction. If paper records are destroyed, yet digital records of the same information continues to be maintained, the disposition list is a fraud, including email and back-ups. If source documents relative to destruction are produced (certificates of destruction from recyclers, land fill tickets, etc.) attach these as a witness to the destruction. Metadata is receiving particular attention and perhaps points to the greatest vulnerability during discovery. Metadata is data about data - information about a particular data set that describes various attributes, such as authorship, creation, modification and/or format. More frequently we see discovery mandated in "native format," or the "form in which it is used." For digital records, this includes metadata. This issue points to the need for a comprehensive, systematic disposition effort as a regular component of the port's record life cycle. A comprehensive, systematic records plan is much more than simple destruction, yet destruction produces the biggest bang for the buck in a busy port. ● Steve M. Lewis is president and CEO of independent records and information management consulting firm SML, Inc. He has more than 35 years of experience at nearly every size and type of government agency. Clients range from small towns to major cities, counties, school boards, state agencies, universities, community colleges, utilities, transportation, law enforcement, court and regulatory agencies. Learn more at www.smlinfo.net. SPRING 2014 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM 29 http://www.smlinfo.net http://WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Spring 2014

AAPA Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
Public Sector Agencies with Private Sector Expectations
Welcoming Veterans to Port Ranks
Working with Stakeholders: The Buck Stops at the CEO’s Office
Words of Wisdom from Long-Standing Port Executives
PPM® Certification Readies Executives for the Top
Facing Challenges Head On
Ports are Critical to U.S. Economy’s Health
The Changing Paradigm of Transportation Executives
Port and Maritime Environmental Compliance Planning Starts at the Top
Comprehensive Records Retention Plan a Must for Ports
Saint John Brings the Port to the Classroom
Barbados on Track for Record Cruise Growth
Santa Marta Focuses on the Environment, Community and Operational Efficiency
Northwest Ports Partner to Further Cut Diesel Emissions

Seaports Magazine - Spring 2014

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