Government records, including email:

  • Facilitate efficient conduct of government programs and services
  • Ensure effective management of government information
  • Provide adequate documentation of government activities

Public officials are legally obligated to create and maintain records that adequately document agency business (Code of Alabama 1975, § 36-12-2).

  • Email is an important communication tool for conducting government business in the State of Alabama.

The use of official government email accounts is encouraged for the conduct of public business.

  • Alabama issues a professional e-mail account for each new employee and public official.

The retention of email is dependent upon the content of the email, not where the email account resides.

  • Alabama law stipulates that any document is a government record when it is created by a government employee in the course of conducting public business - not limited to those only created and/or stored on government property. (Code of Alabama 1975, § 41-13-1).

Alabama Employee Handbook states:

  • “all electronic communications are expected to comply with relevant Federal and State laws as well as State policies and standards formulated to ensure the integrity and availability of e-mail system resources.”

Email messages are subject to the same retention requirements as the same type of records in another format or medium.

  • Government e-mail messages must be retained and disposed of according to the records disposition authority (RDA) approved by the appropriate records commission for that agency (Code of Alabama 1975, §§ 41-13-21 and 41-13-23).
  • Record retention is dependent on the information in the record, not the format.
  • Intentionally destroying, mutilating, removing, or altering a record can be a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $6,000 fine. (Code of Alabama 1975, §§ 13A-5-7 and 13A-5-12).

Email records are subject to the same legal requirements regarding access as any of the agency’s other government records, as governed by Alabama’s open records law (Code of Alabama 1975, § 36-12-40).