Limiting Risks

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Be aware that there is a danger of theft, vandalism, or damage by negligence inherent in allowing a member of the public access to government records. There is a profitable market out there for certain historical manuscripts. Across the country, government records are disappearing from government offices and reappearing for sale in antique stores, flea markets, speciality shops, or Internet auction sites. To prevent theft or vandalism, someone from your office should supervise the person accessing the records or, at a minimum, the person accessing the records should be required to examine them in an open area where abuse of the records or attempted thefts will be noticed. If county records have been lost in the past and are discovered in someone’s possession, the Tennessee Code, in Section 39-16-504, grants statutory authority to counties to initiate judicial proceedings to reclaim lost, stolen, or otherwise misappropriated records.