PIERRE | A state senator who is the only announced Democratic candidate for governor told a panel of South Dakota lawmakers Monday he would accept a compromise on how long state government records should be kept.
South Dakota doesn’t have a state law establishing a minimum period for retaining records. Instead state law designates a state board to set regulations.
The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee met a dead end this year as its staff searched for old records from the GEAR UP program.
Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton, of Burke, is a member of the committee and is running for governor in 2018. Sutton declared several months ago he would pursue legislation in the 2018 session to require records be kept for a definite number of years.
Since that time, however, Sutton has met a dead end, too.
According to what Sutton recently told the Journal, the Legislative Research Council staff raised the barrier. Sutton said an LRC official told him he couldn’t release emails from his Senate account until each message was checked for information that otherwise would be private under South Dakota’s public record laws.
The private information then would be redacted, Sutton said.
GOAC legislators invited Scott Bollinger to testify Monday. He is commissioner for the state Bureau of Administration and operates what a government website identifies as the state Board of Record Retention.
Bollinger said state law specifically provides for what he described as “a records-destruction board.” The board, whatever its correct title, met last week.
Sutton asked how often records were retained online and whether more could be retained longer.
“We looked at some data and there are fewer boxes coming to the records center," replied Bollinger, adding that it was “my supposition” that agencies were keeping more records electronically.
Sutton asked if the state board could suggest more electronic record keeping. Bollinger said he didn’t know whether the board told agencies they could do more electronically.
Last week’s meeting marked the second year Bollinger was in charge of the bureau and the board.
Sutton asked about the cost for more electronic storage, and Bollinger said the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications handles all of the electronic data, and the cost would vary by servers and other factors.
Sen. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, said state Department of Social Services officials might have some idea. Cronin said female prisoners started handling electronic records for the agency at some point years ago, although he wasn’t sure about the date.
“But I know it happened and it was a good deal,” Cronin said. He wanted to know the retention cost for electronic storage and turned the question to Sutton.
Sutton evidently didn’t know or didn’t want to answer. Sutton instead said he wants to explore through BIT and some of the committee members to find a compromise.
Sutton said he hoped “there is some similar frustration” by other legislators in their inability to look back, based on their experience with GEAR UP. “I would be willing to work with you on what makes sense,” he told the committee.
Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, asked Bollinger whether the paper and electronic requirements were similar. She is co-chair of the committee.
“They wouldn’t change the time frame, but they might change the plateau on which it (data) sits,” Bollinger said about the possible differences.
Bollinger said a record is a record, whether it’s paper or electronic, and the law applies the same. He repeatedly referred to a standard of one year in the office and three years in record storage.
Cronin asked when South Dakota began retaining records electronically and whether it could be used across all departments.
If Bollinger knew the answer, he didn’t give it. He said some of the records kept in state agencies where he previously worked might have records dating eight to 10 years.
“I know — the exciting realm of record retention,” Peters said.