Legal authority is needed to destroy public records. University records are not the personal property of the staff who create and maintain them but are the property of the University and, ultimately, of the State of Wisconsin.
University offices and departments thus do not have the legal authority to dispose of paper records, delete files, erase documents, or purge data elements from a records series without first securing the approval of the Public Records Board (PRB) by submitting records schedules, also known as records retention and disposition authorizations (RDAs), to cover their materials. RDA is a binding legal authority for records disposal. Without an RDA approved by the Public Records Board, departments may not destroy public records.
Once approved, however, the RDA is a binding, legal document which provides for both the retention and final disposition of the records series it covers. Departments must delay the destruction of records and retain them beyond their scheduled retention time if the records are needed for purposes of:
- Litigation: records are needed in a current or pending legal action
- Audit: particular records are relevant to current or ongoing audits
- Open Records Request: records may not be destroyed until the open records request has been satisfied or the time period for appeals has expired