The Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) has made some recommendations in connection with the recent action of interim city manager Steve Hill removing records from his personnel file of the time he was director of Parks and Recreation.
After reviewing the city charter and ordinances, MTAS Human Resources Consultant John Grubb said that it is his opinion that under the current situation, the city manager is in charge of personnel records, including his own, and that the city clerk is in charge of public records requests and the production of of handling those requests, including for personnel files.
Human Resources Administrator Leah Crockett sought some additional clarification from Mr. Grubb including what procedure should be used for a city manager to maintain his or her own file and should action memos and reprimands be removed from the file on the timeline in the city's personnel policy and is that policy in line with open records regulations?
Mr. Grubb responded that the city manager is in charge of all personnel files including his/her own. He further states, “The city may choose to adopt an ordinance to change who is in charge for future purposes.”
Mr. Grubb forwarded the remainder of the question to Elisha Hodge. Ms. Hodge was formerly the open records counsel for the Tennessee Comptroller's office and now works for the Institute of Public Service of MTAS.
“I do not advise that any disciplinary record be removed from a personnel file or destroyed until such time as the records retention schedule calls for the destruction of the record,” wrote Ms. Hodge. “I agree, there might be some additional documentation that needs to be attached to the discipline once it expires or if it is rescinded, but I do not think that the original discipline needs to be removed or destroyed until the retention period runs,” she concluded.
The MTAS recommended retention schedule for personnel files is for 7 years after termination and any medical records or (environmental) exposure records for 30 years. Documents in a file that include demotion, transfer, layoff or termination should be retained for at least 5 years. It is also noted that the statue of limitations on personnel actions is 5 years.
City Clerk Sally Oglesby is seeking an opinion from the current comptroller open records counsel on the matter as well.