Taking and Recording Minutes
Jenni Lefing, AASB and Sharon Waldo, Delta Greely School District
The presenters began by asking the administrative assistants in attendance to answer a question: What two people who must be present to hold a valid meeting? The answer, they said, is the board chair and the board secretary to take the meeting minutes.
Attendees were then asked, why take meeting minutes? Their answers included, to document history, to capture an official record of action taken, and for legal protection if needed, and that it is required by state law.
According to Robert’s Rules, the purpose of meeting minutes to record the actions taken by the body. Meeting minutes should record what is DONE, not what is SAID.
There are three types of minutes:
- Action minutes
- Summary minutes
- Transcript (word for word or “verbatim” court-recorder level of detail)
Most boards take Action minutes. Attorneys advise against taking Transcript minutes, as it can open the board to legal challenges. The person taking the minutes can include their own opinion of a conversation that took place. We all have perceptions based on our experience, so what one person says is true may not have been an accurate depiction of a discussion that tool place. However, it becomes true when included in the minutes and become official. Meetings minutes can be discoverable in litigation. “Discussion followed” is a good way to summarize.
What Goes in Meeting Minutes?
- Name of body, place of meeting
- Time at which the meeting started and ended
- Members present and, if relevant, any absences; staff members present
- Each main Motion and its disposition (passed, failed, referred to committee, postponed, etc.)
- Minor procedural motions such as approving the agenda or calling the question do not need to be included.
- Points of order, appeals, and rtheir result.
Professional Parliamentarian Ann Macfarlane offers these guidelines for taking meeting minutes:
- Recommend action or summary minutes
- Record what is done, not what is said
- For certain topics, such as conflict of interest, main points should be included
- Do not include “he said, she said.” (except at the end when there is board comments and they praise someone or thank someone. Those are nice to include.)
This article from Ann Macfarlane’s Jurassic Parliament blog offers additional tips for taking meeting minutes.
Attendees discussed the various protocols and procedures their districts take and retain meeting minutes and board packets. One attendee noted that the “Taking & Recording Minutes sectional was very helpful! Being only two months into the position, it will help me cut down and stop typing up every single word everyone says.”
The sectional concluded with the presenters facilitating a group discussion about which records should be saved, for how long, and in what format. Districts varied in their approach, but many opt for retaining both digital and hard copies just to be safe.
A records retention specialist from one district made the following comment: “I believe either are fine. Electronic copies should be future-proof, accessible and stored securely. We use tiff format for electronic records rather than pdf so that we know they can be read in the future. We utilize keys and storage structures to easily locate and retrieve records. All permanent or long-term retention documents are backed up and maintained with disaster recovery in mind. So, your electronic records should be stored in a place that others can get to and that are backed up on system drives maintained for disaster recovery.”