FACT CHECKING: DLM digitizes documents
June 5, 2018
Hagåtña — The Guam Daily Post published an article insinuating that the Department of Land Management was shredding copies of documents — this action being prohibited by law. This is false.
The article begins with an assertion from an unnamed source that the illegal shredding of long-held copies of land titles was occurring. It further notes that this concern was brought to the Office of Public Accountability, which looked into it and confirmed that the original titles were not destroyed, and considered the matter “officially closed”.
The Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Department of Land Management is aware of the process by which documents are being scanned and unneeded paper copies are being shredded. He has no concerns so long as original documents are safeguarded.
Although the article initially referenced a violation of Guam Law, the online version of the article was later updated to note that it was not a law, but a handbook instead: “GovGuam Records Management Handbook states a request for disposal should be submitted to the director of DOA and the attorney general for approval.”
Preservation of original documents
Many of the original documents are torn, stained, or missing due to handling. In the 90s, the copies of the originals were made and used for the purpose of research to protect the originals.
Around 2010, Land Management started digitizing documents, leaving shelves of copies unused and unnecessary at the office. If a constituent needs a copy, it is printed out from the digital copy.
The certified copy has to be duplicated from the original itself. The original documents are secured in a room that can only be accessed by two people — the Records Management Officer and the Land Abstractor. If anyone wants to review the original, there’s a protocol for getting that.
The article cites two laws that do little to support its primary premise. There is another section of the article that states: “Guam law states DLM library copies hold equal legal value as the recorded original, for public inspections, the whistleblower stated.”
The article fails to cite Guam law to support that assumption.
In our research, we could not find Guam law regarding the destruction of copies of original land documents. Guam law defines “record” in a manner contrary to what the Post article states.
That section of the handbook is based on the Records Management Act of Guam, which is codified in 5 GCA Chapter 20, Article 6, paragraph (A) Section 20602 defines “records”:
“… Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience or reference, forms and stocks of publications are not included within the definition of records and are referred to herein as non-record materials.”
What the law DOES say about maintaining records
Guam law 21 GCA Chapter 60 Subsection 60319, states:
“The recorder shall, as rapidly as his facilities permit, index and record such original documents in his possession as affect the title to or possession of real property and which were filed on or after January 1, 1935, and which have not been merged into a certificate of title or certificate of guaranteed claim. The recorder may preserve all documents, books and records in his possession by the process of photography or microphotography and such copies, when properly certified by the recorder, shall be considered duplicate originals.”
Considering that technology now allows us to scan recorded land documents, it would be prudent to make use of such technology to reduce the need for additional space to store and maintain copies of original records. It also allows us to make all land documents readily available online.
FACT CHECKING: DLM digitizes documents