“You need to clean house.” That statement can be a scary one for a politician, but in this case it was made concerning old records not old commissioners. Steve Lewis, a records management consultant hired by Walton County, presented a notebook with over a ream of paper describing recommendations on record keeping.
Florida has a broad and open Sunshine law that helps to make sure the public has the ability to see what is going on in the government. Lewis said record management needs to be ongoing and the county should have a person who is in charge.
His first recommendation is to get rid of any old records they do not have to keep. Lewis told commissioners they have to make sure to work within the requirements of the state when deciding which records they need to keep and which can be destroyed. He said they have to document which were destroyed and why, which records they do not have and build a database of those they keep. This is to make sure if there is a challenge in the future, they will be able to show why the records are gone, not there or to be able to find them.
Lewis talked about records as far back as when the county was first created. He said they can expect to find some of the records any county would have had at the time. Lewis said the records might start with the printed ones, but would also include any media type. He explained the records are any stored data. Lewis said one of the hardest to work with are emails. Lewis said it will take around two years to clean up all the records. This will be followed by annual work and updates to the list.
Walton has records stored at several sites. The old bank downtown, various storage facilities and even an old residence are being used for records storage. Lewis said they can use microfilm, digital and other means to store records that still need to be kept. Some records even need to be stored in a bunker, away from the County. Lewis said he asked the state if 10 million years would be long enough and they said no. The idea is some records need to be kept always. He told commissioners, with changing technology, he recommends microfilm. This is something that can be read with a candle and magnifying glass and lasts 3000 years. He said there is no storage place with the requirements needed for some of these and the county might want to use a service.