Friday, April 04, 2008

Meeting Minutes May Not Be What You Think

I get lots of calls from reporters and individuals who have questions about the Sunshine Law. I’m not a legal expert but I do normally know where to find the information.

Plus, I have the advantage of having my notes from a presentation by the Assistant Missouri Attorney General on the Sunshine Law hosted by MU Extension in Springfield during the fall of 2007.

One issue that I get lots of questions about is meeting minutes. Most people are very surprised when they discover that Missouri state law does not require as much in meeting minutes as they think it should.

For example, this comes from the fall meeting I hosted on the Sunshine Law:

Questions about meeting minute retention and content is something Attorney General’s office get lots of calls about. People are surprised sometimes when they attend a 3-hour minute and then see minutes that are 2 pages long.

“Missouri’s requirement for minutes is very basic. The statue says you have to show date, time and place of meeting, who attended and the record/count of votes. If you want to know what was discussed a public might need to be able to look back and see more than just votes but the law does not require it. This is part of the reason why citizens have the right to come into any public meeting and record it,” said James Klahr, Assistant Missouri Attorney General.

The state law discussing this issue can be found at

It says, “A journal or minutes of open and closed meetings shall be taken and retained by the public governmental body, including, but not limited to, a record of any votes taken at such meeting. The minutes shall include the date, time, place, members present, members absent and a record of any votes taken. When a roll call vote is taken, the minutes shall attribute each "yea" and "nay" vote or abstinence if not voting to the name of the individual member of the public governmental body.”

Klahr emphasized these three points at the fall 2007 session on the Sunshine Law.

1) Official minutes of a meeting are not required to be a transcript.

2) Members of the public have a right to get draft minutes of a meeting even before they are voted on or approved but they should be marked as draft.

3) Requirements for minutes are very vague which is why it is so important for citizens to be able to record what is taking place at the meetings.

The first point may be the most important to remember. And that is straight from the Missouri Attorney General's office.


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