COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Work session on policy regarding Board minutes
Work session to determine if the Board wishes to change its recordkeeping policy from near-verbatim minutes to summary minutes
Tucker, Foley, Elliott, Davis, Allshouse, L., Jordan
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
June 11, 2008
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
In December 2007, Mike Chandler, facilitated a “Code of Governance” work session for the Board to discuss operations and procedures that may be beneficial to the Board. Mr. Chandler observed that Board members are prepared for meetings, are open to different opinions, and are respectful to the public, County staff and each other. He did note; however, that the length and number of Board meetings have increased substantially over the years.
During the work session, Mr. Chandler reviewed the County’s Rules of Procedure, presented data regarding the increase in the length of Board meetings and made suggestions which included a recommendation that the Board consider modifying their recordkeeping requirements now that Board meetings are podcasted. Based on this discussion, the Board agreed to the following:
1) Adopt Small Board procedures and incorporate them into the Board Rules of Procedure in January 2008 with the exception that motions will require a second before voting.
2) Hold a third day meeting each month on an as needed basis, to be primarily designated for afternoon work sessions.
3) Regarding the agenda item: From the Public: Matters Not Listed for Public Hearing, the Board requested that the Clerk develop clear written instructions to be provided to the public who wish to speak under this item and that these instructions be projected on the screen during this portion of the meeting.
4) The Chairman should informally recognize which Board member is speaking, in order to assist with meeting decorum, minute preparation, and podcasting clarity.
5) At the end of the Board discussions on items during the meeting, the Board Chairman should summarize Board direction to staff.
Additionally, the Board agreed to:
6) Hold a work session to review an example of summary style minutes and determine whether the Board would want to change from detailed (near-verbatim) meeting minutes to summary minutes now that meetings are podcasted.
This work session supports the County’s mission “to enhance the well-being and quality of life for all citizens through the provision of the highest level of public service consistent with the prudent use of public funds.”
Information regarding current Board recordkeeping procedures and alternatives is provided below to inform the Board’s discussion. More details are available in the attachments.
Legal Requirements: Virginia Code § 15.2-1242 requires local governing bodies to record the proceedings of their meetings, either in “well-bound books” or on microfilm or microfiche. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act requires that minutes include, but are not limited to, (i) the date, time, and location of the meeting; (ii) the members of the public body recorded as present and absent; and (iii) a summary of the discussion on matters proposed, deliberated or decided, and a record of any votes taken. It is important that minutes accurately reflect the adoption of ordinances, resolutions, and appropriations. Detailed minutes of discussions are not legally required. There is no specific legal deadline for when Board minutes are required to be completed after a Board meeting is held.
There are three types of Board minutes typically used throughout the Commonwealth:
Current Procedure: The County currently records, podcasts and provides detailed minutes of Board meetings. While detailed minutes provides for a thorough permanent written documentation of all dialogue held during Board meetings, preparing this type of minutes is a time-consuming procedure.
Steps taken for minute preparation:
A set of minutes for one six hour Board meeting requires approximately 27 hours to complete, including 24 hours for transcription, and an additional 3 hours for proofing/editing. While the Board Office is making every effort to expedite the completion of Board minutes, as of June 4, 2008, twenty (20) sets of minutes (eight months) have yet to be finalized, approved, and uploaded to the County’s website.
The County began podcasting Board of Supervisors meetings in Summer 2006 and “chunking” these podcasts in December of 2006. Podcasts of Board meetings are quite beneficial as they capture all conversations (including verbal inflection and passion) that take place during a Board meeting and are available on the County’s website usually within a couple days of the meeting. The number of listeners to Board of Supervisors meetings by podcasts continues to substantially increase as reflected by the fact that in March 2008, 464 visitors logged onto the Board of Supervisors podcast website. Those visitors amassed a total of 1,725 visits and 4,543 mp3 downloads during that month. (See Attachment B for more information). While podcasts can be archived indefinitely, they cannot legally serve as the official public record and have limitations. At times, portions of podcasts can be inaudible or even unavailable. There are still parts of the County that do not have DSL services and some home computers are not equipped to play podcasts. Also, at times, it may be difficult for listeners to determine who is speaking during portions of the Board’s meetings. Nevertheless, podcasts of Board meetings offer a convenient way for an increasing number of residents to listen to Board discussions and stay informed about their County government.
Summary style minutes include Board member votes, resolutions, and ordinances as well as a summarization of the discussions that took place during a Board meeting. The amount of detail included in summary minutes can vary greatly.
Should the Board desire to change its recordkeeping policy from near-verbatim to summary minutes, Board Office staff proposes the County’s style of summary minutes should include a certain level of detail. (See Attachment C for a sample style of summary minutes offered for the Board’s consideration. Attachment D includes actual near-verbatim minutes for the same meeting for comparison.) While the actual costs are unknown, staff estimates the preparation of summary minutes such as these would reduce the administrative expense required for minute preparation. If the Board desires summary minutes to include an increased level of details than included in Attachment C, administrative effort and costs to do so may not differ substantially from those of the County’s current procedure.
As the number and length of Board meetings increase, the costs to prepare detailed sets of minutes increase commensurately. Changes in record-keeping requirements could reduce the Clerk’s Office’s administrative costs and enhance the efficiency and delivery of this service to citizens and Board members. If the Board desires to continue with the status quo, additional resources will be required in order for the Board Office to increase the timeliness of the completion of the official record.
Due to the increase in the number and length of Board meetings, the increasing use of Board meeting podcasts, and the time required to complete near-verbatim minutes, staff recommends that the Board consider modifying its formal record-keeping requirements from near-verbatim meeting minutes to summary minutes.
If the Board desires to continue to include a near-verbatim record of the dialogue which occurred during the Board meetings as part of the official record, staff recommends additional revenues be appropriated, which will be brought back to you in the near future, to ensure the Board meeting’s official record is completed within a reasonable timeframe.
Attachment A: Board meeting data/trends
Attachment B: Podcasting data/trends
Attachment C: Example of “Summary” Minutes of the October 10, 2007 Board meeting
Attachment D: Actual “Near-verbatim” Minutes of the October 10, 2007 Board meeting
Attachment E: Survey Results
Return to regular agenda