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Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging

Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging

If you’re an official or staff member for a local government in Washington State and you sometimes use text messaging to conduct agency business, or you’re thinking about doing so, there are unique legal considerations related to texting that you and your agency need to be aware of. These considerations include possible implications regarding records retention, as well as regarding the Public Records Act (PRA).

The state agency that administers the rules regarding records retention is the Washington State Archives (WSA), a division of the Office of the Secretary of State. The WSA recently issued important “Advice Sheets” regarding texting, and I recommend that local government officials and staff thoughtfully consider these Advice Sheets. There are five Advice Sheets related to texting, and each of them is brief (one page), as follows:

  1. Text Messages and Public Records - The Basics
  2. Are Text Messages Public Records?
  3. How Long Do Text Messages Need to be Kept?
  4. Capture and Retention of Text Messages
  5. Managing Public Records Created or Received as Text Messages  

The Advice Sheets can also be accessed via the WSA’s Managing Text Messages web page.

I recommend that agency officials and staff consult with your agency’s Public Records Officer and legal counsel about your agency’s policies related to such electronic communications. Texting and other types of electronic messaging can be a valuable tool for local governments, but it’s important that agencies carefully consider records retention requirements as well as potential implications under the PRA that can relate to such communications.

Photo courtesy of NEC Corporation of America.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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About Joe Levan

Joe served as an MRSC Legal Consultant and Legal Manager. He has been a municipal attorney for many years, including as an in-house city attorney, in private practice for two municipal law firms through which he provided litigation and a range of other services to several Washington municipalities, and as part of the in-house legal team for Sound Transit. He no longer works for MRSC.