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Meeting minutes best practices for municipalities

July 11, 2019
0 min read
colleagues discussing best practices for taking meeting minutes for municipalities

Meeting protocols and minutes have become so commonplace that we often don’t think very much about the best practices and procedures that form the basis for doing them well. Council meeting minutes have many historical and legal implications. Resolutions, proposals, amendments, and voting are some of the most important actions that councils take. The minutes of a council meeting form the legal record of the council’s actions.

In addition to providing a historical record of the council’s actions and decisions, the minutes give the administration the authority to implement the council’s decisions. Resolutions form the basis for all actions that councils take and without formal approvals, resolutions have no legal validity. In accordance with good governance, best practices for meeting minutes should account for being transparent and open so that council members will continually be held accountable to their citizens and stakeholders. Best practices help to promote the public’s confidence and trust in leadership of their local government officials.

Best practices for recording council meeting minutes

The first item on an agenda is always the Call to Order. Council meetings should always be called to order at the posted meeting time.

The next item is the roll call. The meeting minutes should include the names of all council members present. If a council member should arrive after the meeting begins, the minute-taker should note the council member’s arrival time at the precise location in the order of business. In addition, include the arrival time in the attendance summary in the heading. Minute-takers should also note the time of any council member departures in the same manner. After these items, council members should approve the minutes of the last meeting.

Best practices for meeting minutes entails structuring the minutes to make it easy to record the actions and decisions of the meeting sequentially. The meeting minutes should have a corresponding heading on for every item on the agenda.

As a matter of course, meeting minutes should include the following information:

  • The name of the municipality
  • The type of meeting-regular, special, organizational, committee
  • The method of notice of the meeting if it’s other than a regular meeting
  • The date, time, and location of the meeting
  • The names of council members in attendance
  • The name of the presiding officer
  • A record of the time any council member left and re-entered the meeting
  • Times of breaks or recesses
  • Name of person taking minutes
  • Any other appointed officials in attendance including their title
  • List of all resolutions noting whether they carried or were defeated
  • The time of adjournment
  • Signatures of the presiding officer and a designated officer

Best practices for managing and recording council meeting resolutions

It’s important for council members to pay attention to the wording of resolutions. They should be worded so that they answer all questions including who, what, where, when, why, and how. Essentially, they should be worded so that nothing can be assumed.

Best practices also suggest that each municipality should develop an appropriate numbering format to identify all resolutions. For example, a municipality could use the beginning number as the day of the year, followed by the month, and then the year. So, January 1, 2019, would be 01-01-2019. This numbering scheme is helpful for council members to know when the decision was made. It also makes it easier for council members to refer to the number in discussions and the agenda and the minutes.

Every resolution stated in the minutes should be followed by a clear indication of whether it is carried or defeated. In addition, it’s considered meeting minutes best practices to display the wording of the resolutions on a screen and have the secretary or someone else read it back so that everyone understands and agrees with the resolution as its being carried.

Councils have to abide by certain rules to move into or out of closed sessions. The meeting minutes must reflect the time that the council went into a closed meeting and the time that the open meeting resumed. The minutes should also state the reason that the council went into closed session. The council also has to move to open the meeting and allow the public enough time to re-enter the meeting.

Technology Supports Best Practices for Meeting Minutes

Technology can be of great assistance to municipal governments in their efforts to abide by meeting minutes best practices. iCompass designed the Meeting Manager Pro board management system to support best practices in modern governance. The program is designed to pre-fill all pertinent information as listed in the bullet points above into the agenda. As the meeting begins, minute-takers can transfer the agenda information over to the minutes program which lists all the basic meeting information and provides sections for each agenda item. The minute-taker can then simply type in whatever actions and decisions the council makes and whether their motions were carried or defeated.

The program was built to be flexible enough to respond to impromptu changes in the agenda. If the council chair decides to reorder items on the agenda, the minute-taker can quickly reorder them, by dragging and dropping them into the correct order. If the council adds an item to the agenda at the last minute, the minute-taker can easily insert a new section to accommodate it.

Meeting Manager Pro offers the perfect format for displaying the agenda on a screen for public viewing inside the meeting pace. Council members can also pull up meeting agendas and minutes on an iPad for easy viewing during the meeting.

Once the agenda and meeting minutes have been approved, the clerk can easily upload them to the Transparency Portal so that they’re accessible for public viewing as soon as they’re approved. In addition, the platform stores all documents securely.

Best practices were developed to equip industries and organizations with guidelines for the best ways of setting up their policies and procedures. As best practices pertain to meeting minutes, municipal governments can be assured that their minutes are created appropriately so that they are useful and valid for many years. Meeting minutes best practices have evolved as technology has created ways to streamline meetings and ensure that they’re accurate and transparent.


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