Abbreviated minutes for county commission urged by county att’y

Tue, 06/10/2008 - 4:20pm
By: John Thompson

Residents who are curious about why the County Commission’s puts abbreviated versions of its meeting minutes on the county’s website need to look no further than the county attorney’s office.

County Executive Assistant Carol Chandler confirmed that no vote had ever been take on posting an abbreviated form of the minutes. Instead, the recommendation came from the county’s attorney, Scott Bennett, when he came on board last summer.

“It was a staff directive, and we took it seriously,” Chandler said.

Previously, the county had posted a more comprehensive account of discussions relating to actions the commissioners took during meetings. Now, the minutes reflect how each commissioners voted, but leaves out the discussion part.

The new form has come under fire from letter writers to The Citizen, and from Commissioner Peter Pfeifer, who tried to get the commissioners to revert to the old way of recording minutes. On May 22, Pfeifer made a motion to go back to the old way, but was defeated by a 4-1 vote.

Still, Chandler maintains the information is still available to the public.

“We have audio CDs available, and are working towards putting a wav file on the website that will have the entire meeting,” she added.

The county has also started putting its agenda up earlier and including all the staff information that the commissioners receive.

“We feel this gives the public a better view of what the commissioners will discuss,” she said.

But if you want to read in the official minutes about the commissioners’ discussions leading up to votes, you are out of luck.

login to post comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 9:20am.

I understand the use of abbreviated minutes was motivated by the desire to make them available sooner, to meet legal requirements.

Here's the solution to the problem. Prepare abbreviated minutes and make them available as soon as the law requires. Then prepare expanded minutes (following the previous more informative style), and when they are ready substitute the new minutes for the old minutes.

This way, the legal requirements are met, and everyone is happy.

Submitted by thenatural on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 9:59am.

They just need to be transcribed word for word.

Why did they change it?

The change made meets the MINIMUM LEGAL REQUIREMENT. Why does it have to be the minimum? You prepare the meeting minutes by transcribing, verbatim, what transpires in the meeting. That meets all requirements, legal, ethical and what a reasonable citizen should expect from a governing body focused on keeping people informed. To settle for the minimum implies that there is something going on that this board does not want known.

If it takes a couple of days longer to get the minutes up on the county website so what? The verbatim minutes have been the standard for as long as anyone can remember. We get a new county attorney, who is "beholdin" to the members of this board, and suddenly he is more interested in minimum requirements than in open government.

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 12:07pm.

I disagree with the comment that meeting minutes shouldn't have to be prepared.

Minutes are different from a transcript. Minutes are designed to serve as a memorandum of actions taken at a meeting. They are not designed to serve as a rehash of the arguments brought out at a meeting. It is not helpful to have the actions of the board of commissioners buried in the middle of pages and pages of argumentation.

Confusing minutes with a transcript is not helpful. They are different and have a different purpose.

Submitted by thenatural on Thu, 06/12/2008 - 9:38am.

We disagree then. I believe that the minutes should reflect, as accurately as possible, the exact words, statements and positions of ALL speakers in a meeting, not just the board.

It is fact of life that people cannot attend the meetings on a regular basis even when they are very interested in the outcomes.

Let's not punish, or handicap those who cannot attend by providing a santize version of the proceedings. It is not that hard, or time consuming, they just don't seem to want you to know what has transpired. Why is that?

Submitted by thenatural on Tue, 06/10/2008 - 6:09pm.

First,Smith,Maxwell and the boys violate the open meetings law, to discuss his hiring. Then they try to cover it up over Pfieffer's protest,(even when they are caught on tape). They fix it by having a "do over" of the minutes to cover their tracks.

Now we find out the first thing Maxwell's personal attorney does to cover his benefactor, is to instruct the staff to stop posting the commission meeting minutes in complete detail. Problem solved!

Who put this guy in charge?

Is Pfieffer the only one that cares to keep the citizens fully informed?

BTW, what DID happen to the special prosecutor?

Submitted by 30YearResident on Sun, 06/15/2008 - 9:52pm.

I really don't think the "open meeting" law was proven to have been violated, so you might need to watch the way you phrase things.

Second, is this another shameless advertisement for Dunn?

I like Peter, but he's definitely not the only one that cares to keep citizens informed.

Peter was, is and always has been Dunn's "rubber stamp" and now mouthpiece since the voters decided that enough was enough of Mr. Dunn.

Abreviated minutes are fine as an initial release of meeting results. If you want more, as was stated above, the full recording is always available for public consumption and will eventually be made available in a .wav file on the web.

Submitted by thenatural on Mon, 06/16/2008 - 9:58am.

The point is that, had there not been protests in the paper and here, there would have been no attempt to fix the problem. Only after several people complained about the "sanitizing" of the minutes (to the point where they are worthless in trying to determine what really happened)did they realize that people were not going to accept the "legal minimum".

Pfieffer was the only one who raised a question concerning the legality of the process at the time the open meetings law was violated. Frady has been there forever, and did not say a word. Horgan has been there long enough, but he was also mute. Smith gets a pass only because he had not been there long enough.
Maxwell, the only attorney in the bunch, knew better and did it anyway.

They avoided the violation by amending the minutes. It was only after that, Eric's attorney decided that the best way to avoid such embarrassment in the future was to not be quite so accurate in the minutes.

My commercial is for fair and open government. The legal minimum is not acceptable to the people of this county.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.