Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Answer: Meeting minutes should include votes of individual members on agenda items

Meeting minutes should include how each member of the public body voted on each agenda item, a city attorney said.

"The argument, of course, is that the vote is the action of the Council/Board, and the actions must be shown in the minutes," said Michael Vanderburg, city attorney for Oklmulgee.

Whether meeting minutes must include such votes became an issue last week. The Oklahoma Daily reported that meeting minutes of the OU Undergraduate Student Congress don't include votes. Instead, the voting record is kept as a separate document under the "resources" tab of the student government website.

The Open Meeting Act requires written minutes that are an "official summary of the proceedings showing clearly those members present and absent, all matters considered by the public body, and all actions taken by such public body." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 312(A))

In a provision separate from the minutes requirement, the Open Meeting Act states, "In all meetings of public bodies, the vote of each member must be publicly cast and recorded." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 305)

Given those provisions, must the minutes include each member's vote on agenda items?

Vanderburg said they must.

"The fact that at a separate place in the law, the vote is separately required to be publicly cast and recorded, does not support a separate record, but merely states the manner of the vote," said Vanderburg, a former city attorney for Broken Arrow.

"This is the first instance I have heard of where the votes were not included in the minutes, but instead recorded elsewhere," said the longtime member of FOI Oklahoma.

Another FOI Oklahoma member noted that the meeting minutes section of Robert's Rules of Order states, "When the voting is by roll call, the names of those voting on each side and those answering 'Present' should be entered." (RONR (10th ed.), p. 453, l. 33-35).

("[W]hen the voting is by yeas and nays [the chairman] should enter a list of the names of those voting on each side." (Public Domain Edition of Robert's Rules, Art. 10, sec. 60))

"One could make the argument then, if RONR is the adopted authority, that not including the roll call vote in the minutes would make them out of compliance," said Tyson Wynn, publisher and executive editor of

(While Robert's Rules of Order would apply when the Open Meeting Act is silent, it cannot trump the statute's requirements or prohibitions. "The statute makes no mention of Robert's Rules of Order and is not controlled thereby," the Oklahoma Supreme Court noted in 1975. (Oldham v. Drummond Bd. of Educ., 1975 OK 147, ¶ 7))

Recording the votes in the minutes seems to be "just common sense," said Korina Dove, an FOI Oklahoma member and editor of the Cherokee Messenger & Republican.

"Isn't the main purpose of keeping minutes so that the public can know the business - and the outcome of the business - on the agenda?" Dove noted.

For the public to make the most of the minutes, the votes should be included.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.

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