Public Records FAQ 9

Is there a statute or rule that specifies the length of time an audiotape or videotape of a public meeting must be kept?

Yes. The applicable statute is Wis. Stat. sec. 19.21(7). It reads:

Notwithstanding any minimum period of time for retention set under s. 16.61(3)(e), any taped recording of a meeting, as defined in s. 19.82(2), by any governmental body, as defined under s. 19.82(1), of a city, village, town or school district may be destroyed no sooner than 90 days after the minutes have been approved and published if the purpose of the recording was to make minutes of the meeting.   

The highlighted language makes clear that the statute applies to video and non-video tapes of meetings. However, the shortened retention period only applies if the tape was made for the purpose of making minutes. Typically, videotapes are not made for this purpose and sec. 19.21(7) will not apply to them in most instances. Audiotapes are the most common type of recording that will be covered by this statute.

(rev. 1/14)