How long must public records be retained before they can be destroyed?
The governing body of a city or village
must, in general, retain public records for the time set forth in the
statutes or ordinances. The ordinance may prescribe a retention time of
not less than 2 years for water stubs, receipts of current billings and
customer's ledgers of any municipal utility. The ordinance must provide
for at least a 7 year retention period for other records, unless the
state Public Records Board, attached to the Department of
Administration, provides for a shorter period. Wis. Stat. sec.
19.21(4)(b). However, tape recordings of the meetings of municipal
governmental bodies may be erased or destroyed after 90 days have
elapsed since approval of the body's minutes, if the recording was made
to assist in making minutes. Wis. Stat. sec. 19.21(7). In addition,
other statutes and requirements, such as Public service Commission
rules, may require records to be kept for longer periods.
The city council or village board may
provide by ordinance for the destruction of obsolete public records,
subject to the retention periods mentioned above. However, before
records may be destroyed, at least 60 days' written notice must be given
to the State Historical Society. The Historical Society may, upon
application, waive such notice. In the case of assessment rolls
containing forest crop acreage, prior approval of the Department of
Revenue must be obtained before such records are destroyed. Wis. Stat.
sec. 19.21(4)(a). If the Historical Society decides that records are of
historical interest, the Society may take title to the records. Wis.
Stat. secs. 19.23(2) and 44.09.
Questions concerning disposition of
public records should be addressed to the State Historical Society,
(608) 262-0629. For information on records retention schedules, contact
the Public Records Board, (608) 266-2996.