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ACT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2007-2008

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NO. 96.  AN ACT RELATING TO CONSOLIDATING MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC RECORDS.

(S.351)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  1 V.S.A. § 317a is added to read:

§ 317a.  DISPOSITION OF PUBLIC RECORDS

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 approved by the state archivist pursuant to subdivision 117(a)(5) of Title 3.

Sec. 2.  1 V.S.A. § 320 is amended to read:

§ 320.  PENALTIES

(a)  Whenever the court orders the production of any public agency records, improperly withheld from the complainant and assesses against the agency reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs, and the court additionally issues a written finding that the circumstances surrounding the withholding raise questions whether the agency personnel acted arbitrarily or capriciously with respect to the withholding, the department of human resources if applicable to that employee, shall promptly initiate a proceeding to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted against the officer or employee who was primarily responsible for the withholding.  The department, after investigation and consideration of the evidence submitted, shall submit its findings and recommendations to the administrative authority of the agency concerned and shall send copies of the findings and recommendations to the officer or employee or his or her representative.  The administrative authority shall take the corrective action that the department recommends.

(b)  In the event of noncompliance with the order of the court, the superior court may punish for contempt the responsible employee or official, and in the case of a uniformed service, the responsible member.

(c)  A person who willfully destroys, gives away, sells, discards, or damages a public record without having authority so to do shall be fined at least $50.00 but not more than $1,000.00 for each offense.

Sec. 3.  3 V.S.A. § 117 is amended to read:

§ 117.  PUBLICATION AND PRESERVATION OF STATE PAPERS
 VERMONT STATE ARCHIVES AND RECORDS
 ADMINISTRATION

(a)  As used in this chapter:

(1)  “Archival Records management” means the systematic identification and management of archival public records to assure their authenticity and accessibility from the creation to ultimate disposition.

(2)  “Archives” or “archival records” means public records, as defined in 1 V.S.A. § 317(b), which have continuing legal, administrative, or historic value.

(3)  “Identification” “Appraisal” means the identification, classification, and analysis and appraisal of all public records, regardless of physical form or characteristics, to determine their value and ultimate disposition, based upon their:

(A)  current administrative, legal, and fiscal use;

(B)  evidential and informational content;

(C)  arrangement and condition;

(D)  intrinsic value; and

(E)  relationship to other records.

(4)  “Public record” or “public document” means all papers, documents, machine readable materials, or any other written or recorded matters, regardless of their physical form or characteristics, that are produced or acquired in the course of agency business.  Individual salaries and benefits of and salary schedules relating to elected or appointed officials and employees of public agencies shall not be exempt from public inspection and copying.

(5)  “Record schedule” means a manual, directive, or policy containing descriptions of and disposition instructions for retention, access, and management of all public records or public documents. 

(b)  There is created within the office of the secretary of state the division of Vermont state archives and records administration which is charged with administering and implementing an archival a records management program for state government in accordance with professional archival practice records and information management practices and principles which shall be styled “the state archives and records administration program.”  The secretary shall have legal custody of the state’s archival records.

(c)  The secretary shall adopt policies and procedures necessary to carry out the provisions of this section and shall report annually to the governor and the general assembly on the state archives and records administration program.

(d)  The secretary may appoint an archives advisory committee to provide assistance and support for the state archives and records administration program.

(e)  The secretary may adopt rules consistent with this chapter section.

(f)  There shall be a director of the division of Vermont state archives and records administration who shall have the title of “state archivist,” and who shall be qualified by education and professional experience to perform the duties of the office.  The state archivist shall be a classified position within the office of secretary of state.

(g)  In fulfilling the duties of the state archives and records administration program, the state archivist shall:

(1)  coordinate with the commissioner of buildings and general services for compliance with section 218 of this title and sections 453 and 454 of Title 22 to identify, schedule, and manage all public records with archival value;

(2)  establish and administer an archival a records management program for the application of effective and efficient methods to the creation, utilization, maintenance, reformatting, retention, destruction, and preservation of state archival public records;

(3)(2)  cooperate with the heads of state agencies or public bodies to establish and maintain a program for the identification appraisal and scheduling, and preservation of archival of public records;

(4)(3)  analyze, develop, establish, and coordinate standards, procedures, and techniques for the creation of, preservation of, and access to archival public records;

(5)  analyze and identify archival records in state agencies;

(6)  cooperate with the commissioner of buildings and general services in the development of comprehensive records retention and disposition schedules that identify archival records;

(7)(4)  take custody of archival records with the approval of their originating agency in accordance with record schedules approved by the state archivist;

(5)  maintain a record center to hold inactive records in accordance with approved records schedules approved by the state archivist;

(6)  administer a central reformatting program for public records, including land records in the possession of municipal or county officers.  Public records that are microfilmed, electronically captured, or otherwise reformatted shall be taken and received in all courts, public offices, and official bodies as prima facie evidence;

(8)(7)  arrange, describe, and preserve archival records, and promote their use by government officials, educators, historians, and the public through the secretary of state’s website or other publication, or both;

(9)(8)  permit the public to inspect, examine, and study the archives, provided that any record placed in the keeping of the office of the secretary of state under special terms or conditions of law restricting their use shall be made accessible only in accord with those terms and conditions;

(10)(9)  cooperate with and assist to the extent practicable state institutions, departments, agencies, municipalities, and other political subdivisions and individuals engaged in the activities in the field of public records, archives, manuscripts, and history;

(10)  accept for filing copies of land records submitted in microfilm, electronic media, or similar compressed form by municipal or county clerks;

(11)  provide advice, assistance, and consultation to state agencies, political subdivisions, historical agencies, libraries, and other Vermont organizations on the effective management of archival records; receive grants, gifts, aid, or assistance, of any kind, from any source, public or private, for the purpose of managing or publishing public records; and

(12)  serve on the Vermont historical records advisory board, as described in 44 U.S.C. § 2104, to encourage systematic documentation in Vermont and the collecting of archival records; and

(13)  publish or otherwise exhibit and promote those archival records are judged to be of publishable value.

(h)  Each volume published under the provisions of this section shall be called state papers of Vermont and numbered consecutively after the last volume of that title printed and published under the authority of No. 259 of the Acts of 1912 and shall be evidence in court and shall have the same force as the original documents.

(i)  All volumes printed under authority of this section shall be delivered to the state librarian who shall deliver one copy to such elective and appointive state officers and such town and county clerks and such local historical societies and to each public high school and college library in the state, and to the library of each private school acting as a public high school as shall request it in writing for the permanent files of their offices.  The state librarian shall also furnish four copies to the Vermont historical society.  The remaining volumes shall be disposed of by the state librarian through liberal exchanges with other libraries and institutions or through sale at such prices as the state librarian shall establish.

(j)  All volumes of the state papers of Vermont, published under authority of this or any other previous law, shall be evidence in court and shall have the same force as the original documents.

Sec. 4.  3 V.S.A. § 218 is amended to read:

§ 218.  AGENCY/DEPARTMENT RECORDS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

(a)  The general assembly finds that public records are essential to the administration of state and local government.  Public records contain information which allows government programs to function, provides officials with a basis for making decisions, and ensures continuity with past operations. Public records document the legal responsibilities of government, help protect the rights of citizens, and provide citizens a means of monitoring government programs and measuring the performance of public officials.  Public records provide documentation for the functioning of government and for the retrospective analysis of the development of Vermont government and the impact of programs on citizens.  Public records in general and archival records in particular need to be systematically managed to preserve their legal, historic, and informational value, to provide ready access to vital information, and to promote the efficient and economical operation of government.

(b)  The head of each state agency or department shall establish, maintain, and implement an active and continuing program approved by the commissioner of buildings and general services with respect to public records, and the secretary of state with respect to archival records, 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.

(c)  For an agency or department records program to be approved by the commissioner of buildings and general services with respect to public records, and the secretary of state with respect to archival records Vermont state archives and records administration, the head of each state agency or department shall:

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(5)  establish and maintain other records related to management of the agency’s or department’s records as required by the director of public records or the state archivist Vermont state archives and records administration;

(6)  provide for furnishing to the division of public records and state archives, such special reports regarding the records of the agency or department as the department of buildings and general services or the secretary of state Vermont state archives and records administration may deem necessary;

(7)  process, store, and preserve records kept by the agency or department in an efficient and economical manner;

(8)  where practicable, consolidate or eliminate existing records of the agency or department and control the creation of new records; and

(9)  maintain the records of the agency or department in a manner that permits the prompt and orderly removal of records authorized for destruction; and

(10)  implement and sustain a record schedule in accordance with requirements established by the Vermont state archives and records administration under section 117 of this title and the department of information and innovation under subdivision 2222(a)(10) of this title.

(d)  The head of each state agency or department shall designate a member of his or her staff as the records officer for his or her agency or department and shall notify the department of buildings and general services Vermont state archives and records administration in writing of the name and title of the person designated.

(e)  The Vermont state archives and records administration shall approve all agency record schedules, as defined by section 117 of this title, unless set forth in a general record schedule issued by the Vermont state archives and records administration.  Authorizations by the public records advisory board regarding the disposition of public records shall remain in effect until superseded by a record schedule issued or approved by the Vermont state archives and records administration.

Sec. 5.  REPEAL

22 V.S.A. chapter 11 (commissioner of buildings and general services authority to manage public records) is repealed.

Sec. 6.  2 V.S.A. § 752(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The committee shall prepare, adopt, and maintain a long-range plan of at least five years for information technology operations and services in the legislative branch.  The plan shall analyze the costs and benefits and risk management aspects of maintaining authentic and accessible legislative records as required by Vermont law.  In the preparation of the plan, the committee shall consult with members of the general assembly, the legislative staff information systems team established by section 753 of this title, and other legislative staff, the state archivist, the commissioner of buildings and general services, other representatives of the executive and judicial branches of state government, and members of the public.  The committee shall provide the house and senate committees on government operations with copies of the plan and any amendment to the plan.

Sec. 7.  18 V.S.A. § 5002 is amended to read:

§ 5002.  RETURNS; TABLES

The health commissioner shall prepare from the returns of births, marriages, civil unions, deaths, fetal deaths, and divorces required by law to be transmitted to the commissioner such tables and append thereto such recommendations as he or she deems proper, and during the month of July in each even year, shall cause the same to be published as directed by the board.  The commissioner shall file and preserve all such returns.  The commissioner shall periodically transmit the original returns or photostatic or photographic copies to the director of public records state archivist who shall keep the returns, or photostatic or photographic copies of the returns, on file for use by the public.  The commissioner and the director of public records state archivist shall each, independently of the other, have power to issue certified copies of such records.

Sec. 8.  18 V.S.A. § 5008 is amended to read:

§ 5008.  TOWN CLERK; RECORDING AND INDEXING PROCEDURES

A town clerk shall file for record and index in volumes all certificates and permits received in a manner prescribed by the public records director state archivist.  Each volume or series shall contain an alphabetical index.  Marriage certificates shall be filed for record in one volume or series, civil unions in another, birth certificates in another, and death certificates and burial-transit and removal permits in another.  However, in a town having less than 500 inhabitants, the town clerk may cause marriage, civil union, birth and death certificates, and burial-transit and removal permits to be filed for record in one volume, provided that none of such volumes shall contain more than 250 certificates and permits.  All volumes shall be maintained in the town clerk’s office as permanent records.

Sec. 9.  18 V.S.A. § 5148 is amended to read:

§ 5148.  EVIDENCE OF MARRIAGE

A copy of the record of the marriage made by a person required by law at the time the marriage was solemnized, to make and keep the record certified by such person, or by the town or county clerk or the commissioner of health or the director of public records state archivist, if the record is in his or her office, shall be in all courts presumptive evidence of the fact of such marriage.

Sec. 10.  18 V.S.A. § 5167 is amended to read:

§ 5167.  EVIDENCE OF CIVIL UNION

A copy of the record of the civil union received from the town or county clerk, the commissioner of health or the director of public records state archivist shall be presumptive evidence of the civil union in all courts.

Sec. 11.  24 V.S.A. § 1161 is amended to read:

§ 1161.  GENERAL INDEX

(a)(1)  A town clerk shall keep a general index of transactions affecting the title to real estate wherein he or she shall enter in one column, in alphabetical order, the name of the grantor to the grantee and, in a parallel column, the name of the grantee from the grantor, of every deed, conveyance, mortgage, lease or other instrument affecting the title to real estate, and each writ of attachment, notice of lien or other instrument evidencing or giving notice of an encumbrance on real estate which is filed or recorded in the town clerk’s office, with the name of the book, volume, or other manner of recording and the page of record in the following form:

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(2)  If the instrument is executed on behalf of, or to convey the interest of another party, the same shall be indexed in the name of the other party as grantor.  In case the instrument is executed by more than one grantor and to more than one grantee, the name of each grantor and each grantee shall be indexed.  When the party is a natural person the name shall be indexed under the first letter of such person’s surname, and when the party is a corporation the name shall be indexed under the first letter of the first word of its name disregarding articles and initials.  For purposes of this section, a defendant against whose property a writ of attachment is filed or a person against whose property a lien is asserted, shall be considered a grantor, and a plaintiff filing a writ, or a person asserting a lien shall be considered a grantee.  Land plats filed in the office shall be indexed in such manner as the public records director state archivist shall by rule prescribe.  The general index may be kept electronically.

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Sec. 12.  TRANSFER AND FUNDS AND POSITIONS

All employees, positions, and equipment and the remaining balances of the appropriation for public records are transferred from the department of buildings and general services to the office of the secretary of state.  The department of buildings and general services’ vital records special fund and the department of buildings and general services’ public records special fund along with monies in them shall be transferred to the office of the secretary of state and renamed the vital records special fund and public records special fund.

Approved:  March 25, 2008



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us