The dustup over the keeping of minutes by city committees continues. On July 30, City Manager Doug Schulze sent an email to all city committees and commissions, passing on the advice from the city attorney that they are to conduct themselves as if the state Open Public Meetings Act applies to them. Staff will continue to provide the mandated public notice via the city’s website and distribution lists after receipt of an agenda from the committee chairs. Schulze reiterated current city policy on the taking of minutes, asking committee members take the minutes and provide a copy to the city staff for posting on the city website.
At the end of 2010, citizen committees and commissions were advised that, due to budget constraints, the city could not longer provide staff support for the taking of minutes.
Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) Chair Arlene Buetow responded to Schulze in two emails. The first email expressed disappointment that he had not said in his correspondence that this was a new interpretation of state law.
The second contained an ultimatum: either provide staff support for UAC minute-taking or she will cancel the upcoming UAC meeting.
Arlene Buetow’s emailing habits have already been covered here. But on the subject of minutes, there’s something to be said in her defense.
Women know how often eyes turn to them whenever minute-taking comes up at meetings. Men who might be enlightened and wonderful in other parts of their lives, suddenly come down with a Mad Men style sexism when there are secretarial duties at hand.
The UAC has five members: four men and Arlene Buetow. Come on men. Get off your hands and help her out. Here’s a helpful tip from a couple of male former UAC members who did manage to prepare minutes, while fully participating in meetings:
Bring a tape recorder. Turn it on. Immerse yourself in the meeting. Afterwards, write up a summary with your recording as a handy memory refresher. Problem solved.
Minutes. It’s not that hard. It’s the law.
To all members of City committees and commissions,
A question has arisen recently about whether the City’s citizen committees and commissions are subject to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.
The advice provided by the City Attorney is for all committees and commissions to act as though the OPMA applies to them. To comply with the act, each committee and commission should ensure that all meetings are open to the public. The attached publication by the Municipal Research Services Center may be of use for general reference.
Providing notice to the public of upcoming meetings is an integral part of open government. Committees and commissions should provide notice of their meetings by using the City’s standard process:
· Committee/commission chair will provide the agenda to the appropriate staff member for posting to the City’s website;
· Staff will send a link to the affiliated email distribution lists; and
· Staff will post the agenda outside City Hall.
Meeting minutes should be completed and provided to staff for posting to the City’s website and for archiving.
It is recommended that committee/commission chairs and any other interested group members attend the August 28 City Council meeting in order to hear the City Attorney’s presentation on the Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act. The time of this item on the agenda is to be determined, but please check the calendar on the City’s website to confirm closer to the date.
Thank you for the clarification Doug, I regret you did not include in your communication the fact that this is a new interpretation of code for advisory committees but that you are advising us now as the City Manager that Council prefers all its citizen committees and commission to operate “as though the state’s Open Public meetings Act applies to them”. To successfully accomplish this recommendation going forward I strongly advise the following.
1. That all new and potential committee and commission members be provide a copy of the following at the time of scheduling their individual interviews:
-Hard Copy of any COBI Municipal Code with respect to Committees and Commissions
-Hard copy of the applicable COBI Municipal Code Ordinance or Resolution that created and/or regulates the particular committee and commission.
-Hard Copy of the Committee Rules that have been formally endorsed and subjected to the City Clerk for permanent record.
2. And since meeting minutes are required for all committees under these new guidelines I respectfully reiterate my request that administrative staff be reinstated in support of the Utility Advisory Committee to provide administrative assistance to that end.
As you are aware the request for renewed administrative support has been ongoing. I beg your support in addressing this request at the earliest possible convenience.
Utility Advisory Committee
Doug, The next regularly scheduled UAC meeting is this upcoming Monday, August 12, 2013. Since our last meeting you informed our advisory committee of a new interpretation of state law as it applies to our committee whereby we have been advised of the requirement to operate under the rules of the Open Public Meetings Act which requires the publication of meeting notes. As you are aware, absent individual voluntary efforts by myself and other volunteer members of the committee on a case by case basis over time, we have not published meeting notes since administrative staff assistance was curtailed. I am sure you will also recall that no one from the current committee has offered to take notes and that I have formally communicated to you that I cannot take notes at the same time that I chair a meeting and as such our committee requires staff assistance if this requirement is to be met.
It has been nearly two weeks since I wrote to reiterate my request for administrative support for the activities of our committee but I have not received a response. Morgan communicated to me on July 25th that staff was prepared to provide briefing of the individual utilities capital improvement plans and that briefing is currently planned for our upcoming, August 12, 2013 meeting. We are pleased to have been availed that particular briefing because as you know we have expressed interest in participating in the Utility CIP and Budget process over time and this is the 1st time staff has supported that request. Still according to your advise we cannot meet unless we post notice of such meeting and record meeting notes. Accordingly I respectfully request once again that you commit to provide administrative staff to that end. I will go ahead and post agenda for that meeting absent those arrangements but regretfully will be forced to cancel the upcoming meeting if we have not been advised that the necessary administrative support will be at the meeting to take the required meeting notes and publish for our approval at the next meeting which is currently scheduled for August 26th.
I am hoping you can resolve this issue this week. If I have not received formal notification from you regarding this request by 9am Monday, August 12, 2013 I will have no choice but to cancel our upcoming meeting. I will look forward to your reply.