Legal Requirements

All public agencies are responsible for complying with federal and state laws that prescribe the creation, use, management, and retention of government records and information; laws are often complex and subject to change. Federal and state laws affecting public records and information are generally identified through an analysis of agency functions.

Vermont records laws and requirements that affect all public agencies are outlined in the following laws, some of which were recently updated by Act No. 100 and Act No. 166 of 2018:

The Constitution of the State of Vermont, Chapter 1, Article 6
 
That all power being originally inherent in and co[n]sequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.
1 V.S.A. Subchapter 3: Access to Public Records (§§315-320)
 
It is the policy of this subchapter to provide for free and open examination of records consistent with Chapter I, of the Vermont Constitution. Officers of government are trustees and servants of the people and it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize their decisions even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment. All people, however, have a right to privacy in their personal and economic pursuits, which ought to be protected unless specific information is needed to review the action of a governmental officer. Consistent with these principles, the general assembly hereby declares that certain public records shall be made available to any person as hereinafter provided. To that end, the provisions of this subchapter shall be liberally construed with the view towards carrying out the above declaration of public policy.
1 V.S.A. § 317a (Management of Public Records)
(a)(1) Public records in general and archival records in particular should be systematically managed to provide ready access to vital information, to promote the efficient and economical operation of government, and to preserve their legal, administrative, and informational value.
(2) Any public agency may seek services from the Statewide Records and Information Management Program, as defined in 3 V.S.A. § 117(b) and administered by the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, to establish, maintain, and implement an active and continuing internal records and information management program for the agency.
(b) A custodian of public records shall not destroy, give away, sell, discard, or damage any record or records in his or her charge, unless specifically authorized by law or under a record schedule, as defined in 3 V.S.A. § 117(a)(6), that has been approved by the State Archivist.
3 V.S.A. §117 (Vermont State Archives and Records Administration)
 
There is created within the Office of the Secretary of State the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, which is charged with administering a Statewide Records and Information Management Program for all public agencies in accordance with generally accepted record-keeping principles and industry standards and best practices.
3 V.S.A. §218(Agency/Department Records Management Program)
 
The head of each state agency or department shall establish, maintain, and implement an active and continuing program approved by the Vermont state archives and records administration for the effective management, preservation, and disposition of records, regardless of their physical form or characteristics, for which that head is responsible.

Though 3 V.S.A. §218 requirements apply to executive agency and departments, the broader definitions of “public agency” and “public record” found in 1 V.S.A. §317 and management expectations in 1 V.S.A. § 317a make it clear that all public agencies have a responsibility to manage their records and information.

This page was last updated: 2019-01-23