How-To Time: Recording Official Meeting Minutes

English: The penultimate Minneapolis City Coun...

The decisions that cities make affect the lives of the residents. It is for that reason that all decisions need a thorough record of how they came to be.  One way to ensure that the decision process is accounted for is to maintain a good record of meeting minutes.  It’s not just a good idea—it’s the law!

The catch is, meeting notes of record are only as good as the clerk who recorded them.

How can you be sure that your meeting minutes make the grade?  By ensuring all major items of record are recorded, and do so using the correct tools and procedures. Official procedures should be outlined depending on your city, but generally meeting notes include the following:

  1. Name of Meeting (municipal council, board, committee, or commission)
  2. Date of Meeting
  3. Place of Meeting
  4. Time of Meeting
  5. Type of Meeting
    • Regular
    • Special
    • Emergency
    • Hearing
  6. Statement of whether the media and/or public were notified of the meeting
  7. Listing of Members Present and Absent
  8. Disposition of the Minutes from Previous Meeting
  9. All motions
    • Whether motions were adopted or defeated
    • Names of those make the motions
    • Votes tallied for each motion
  10. Resolutions, Ordinances, or Other Official Communications Considered by Council
  11. Summary of Reports Presented
  12. Time of Adjournment
  13. Signature of Clerk

For more suggestions on capturing meeting minutes, see the Municipal Association of North Carolina, which inspired this article in their April 2012 Uptown Newsletter.

In addition to capturing meeting details, there are a variety of ways to ensure meeting minute due process.

Tips for Successful Recording of Minutes:

  1. Determine your method of taking notes ahead of time and become prepared with all necessary tools to complete the job—a laptop, pen, pencil, notepad, recording device, USB drive.
  2. If you have a tough time recording all the important details of a meeting, don’t hesitate to use a recording device of some kind.   These tapes can accompany the meeting minutes for public record.
  3. Be sure to catch all the details of any action items or motions.  If you miss an important piece, it is important to clarify, either during the meeting, or by summarizing your interpretation of the meeting minutes at the end of the meeting.
  4. Be sure to draft minutes for approval in a timely manner.  This will help you produce the most accurate reflection of the meeting while the information is fresh in your mind.  The rules and timeline for drafting and approval of these documents are outlined in your local rules and procedures.
  5. Once the minutes have been approved, they become “official” and should not be re-written.

With the right combination of tips and practices, city clerks can ensure timely, accurate, and thorough record of city happenings.  But practice makes perfect! So share with us!  How do you ensure accurate and complete meeting minutes in your city?

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