Are your records ready for the council elections in 2020

With the local government elections just a few weeks away, it’s important to have your Council’s records in order.

Councils have a responsibility to manage public records so that all council employees, mayors and councillors can fulfill their recordkeeping duties. These public records include digital records such as social media interactions, conversations within messaging applications, and text messages.

As mayors and councillors regularly create and receive records as part of their official duties, it’s particularly important at this time to ensure their records have been captured into your Council’s recordkeeping or relevant application.

If your mayor or any of the councillors are uncertain how public records in their possession or control are managed, they should consult with the council CEO (or delegate).

If you need more information, check out the Guideline on council records.

What records should mayors and councillors be making?

Mayors and councillors need to make records of their work activities. Records of work activities:

  • capture a decision, and/or
  • an action that was taken.

This is particularly important for activities that don’t generate records automatically such as meetings and conversations.

The failure to make and keep full and accurate records is a breach of the Public Records Act and may be a breach of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.

Breaches could result in disciplinary or criminal charges being laid against the individual/s involved.

For more on that topic, check out the Corruption Prevention Advisory on the Management of Public Records.

What happens with mayor and councillor diaries?

Mayor and councillor work diaries are considered council business, so once they are no longer used (i.e. inactive), you will need to capture and manage them the same as any other council records.

If the diaries are electronic or digital, then they should be exported into a file format which is fit for purpose e.g. non-proprietary file format.

For more information, have a look at our advice on Diaries of mayors and councillors as well as our blog post on that very topic, and our advice on file formats for long-term digital records.

What if an elected council member is using social media?

While we often relate social media with Facebook and Twitter, there are many other social media channels such as chats or direct messages through messaging apps (think Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WickR or Telegram).

Regardless of the format used, communication by councillors, the mayor, or council employees that are about the administration of council business are public records. These must be documented and captured.

All councils should have a policy or procedure on how they manage public records related to social media. You can find out more about managing social media as public records on our website.

Social media tips

As we head into elections, there are a few things to think about when using social media accounts:

  1. Maintain a clear distinction between personal and council related social media use
  2. Don’t use council social media for election-related social media posts and know the specific requirements for using social media during the election period
  3. Understand what constitutes a ‘public record’ on your social media platforms and how these records need to be managed.

You can find more information in the Office of the Independent Assessor’s Your social media and you: A guide for elected council members in Queensland.

Do councillors need to declare their financial and non-financial interests?

Short answer, Yes.

Councillors are required to declare all financial and non-financial interests, including the interests of persons related to the councillor – that means spouses, dependent children or anyone whose affairs are so closely connected with the councillor that they could share any benefits received.

Each local government’s chief executive officer will have a ‘Register of interests’ of each councillor and their related persons.  Councillors should make sure their register of interests is up to date.

You can find out advice and information about Registers of Interest about this on the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs website.

How long do we keep records?

It depends, as all public records under the Public Records Act 2002 need to be kept for different amounts of time, and that will depend on the subject and purpose of the records.

The Local Government Sector Retention and Disposal Schedule (QDAN480 v.4) is the authorised authority for the disposal of local government records.  It can be used in conjunction with the General Retention and Disposal Schedule (GRDS) to sentence your Council’s records.

You can find more information about which schedule to use, how long to keep records (aka sentencing) on our website.

More information

There are plenty of resources available to help you manage your council records:

If you need more information, or have any questions, you can always contact us via email, telephone (3037 6630), and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

 

Featured image: Cloncurry Council Chambers (decorated for the visit of the Premier and Cabinet), February 1966, Queensland State Archives Item ID436318.

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