Briefing on Managing Public Records

On June 25, the National Governors Association hosted its monthly briefing for Governors’ legal counsel. The call discussed managing requests for public records and gubernatorial transition planning, including state approaches to record retention and preparing for the transfer of official papers.

Receiving, managing, and responding to requests for government or public records is a core function of a Governor’s legal office. Each state has laws governing public access to government records, and each Governor’s office has a framework for responding to requests and/or coordinating with state agencies. Key components of these laws include what constitutes a public record, who is covered, who can request, time constraints, cost, and exemptions.

A general framework for responding to a public record request includes answering the following questions: (1) Does a record exist that corresponds to the request; (2) Is the record public as defined by statute; (3) Is there an exception that applies; and (4) Does the exception apply to the entire record or certain information.

States also discussed considerations related to gubernatorial transition planning, including retention policies and the process for transferring or archiving official records. Managing gubernatorial records can be one of the more vexing issues an outgoing administration could face if there has not been an ongoing attempt to manage papers, records, and other materials throughout the life of the administration. Knowing applicable statutes and understanding record retention policies, including the transfer and archiving procedures for official records, is critical. Many records are appropriately saved for historical purposes and sent to the state archive. A gubernatorial records retention policy could include a plan to:

  • Distinguish personal papers from public documents;
  • Transfer official records;
  • Transfer personal papers; and
  • Maintain active files for the next administration. 

NGA holds monthly briefings for Governors’ legal counsel. Please reach out to Lauren Dedon ( for additional information.