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RECMGMT-L  November 2000

RECMGMT-L November 2000

Subject:

Re: are military discharge papers confidential?

From:

Curtis Welch <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 22 Nov 2000 14:27:45 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (34 lines)

Mark,

In response to your post to the listserv:

<<<I have been reading this one with interest.  We have a similar situation
here in Ontario with vital statistics records.  The Town/City Clerks acts
as deputy registrars on behalf of the province...and the resulting copies
of birth, marriage and death records are in effect provincial records.
This is so because of the legislation governing the process.>>>

This sounds very similar to the Vital Records program for the same type of records in Florida and several other states in the US of which I am familiar.

<<<In the replies to this post, I see folks mentioning state FOI legislation...but wouldn't the discharge papers be considered to be federal records? >>> 

Yes, and the actual discharge papers maintained by the military ARE the official federal record. (I also believe that the military service records centers are the only institutions which can actual certify the AUTHENTICITY of the discharge of any member of the US Armed Forces;  but I very well could be mistaken about this.)

<<<Would there be a piece of legislation authorizing (or indeed requiring) the deposit of these records with the municipality, and what are terms of
access outlined in that legislation? >>>

Well, no and yes. To my knowledge there is NO federal legislation in this regard at all. However, as pointed out by several other list members, many state and local governments have provided for the inclusion of COPIES of these documents as public records of the state/locality. 

When an individual provides these documents for inclusion as a public record, THEN they become subject to the appropriate state/local public records laws. In Florida (which has one of the broadest and most open public records laws in the US) that means that if you as an individual CHOOSE to include your document(s) as part the local public record; then EVERYONE has a right to access AND copy them without ANY justification. (Only records specifically exempted by an act of the Florida State Legislature are exempted from public review and access. Even if PORTIONS of the documents contain exempt information; a copy of the document with the exempted information redacted must be produced upon request.)

<<<If the discharge papers are actually federal records, wouldn't this legislation take precedence over state FOI laws?>>>

Not in the case stated above. By the act of including a copy of their discharge papers as a part of the body of state/local record; they have in effect potentially "waived" any other confidentiality/privacy "guarantees" which are not specific to the recording agency's appropriate state/local public records laws. (They have also arguably created a "new" record.)

These are, as usual, my personal opinions and not necessarily those of my current or former employers. These opinions are also given strictly from a records management viewpoint as well; I am not an attorney nor am I in any way qualified to give a legal opinion.



Curtis Welch
Sr. Records Management Analyst
Pinellas County BOCC 

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