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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

ROBERT'S RULES REVEALED: EP#09 - How to Make Sure Your Meeting Minutes are Legal

Sunday, January 06, 2013 - Susan Leahy

SUSAN: Hi Rhonda, so glad to have you here, how are you doing?

RHONDA: I’m great, thank you!

SUSAN: Great, well today were going to be talking about how to make sure that your minutes are are legal, and so you’re not getting into trouble during those minutes, when you’re taking those minutes. So, Rhonda I’m glad youre here to talk to us about that, lets jump right in, what are some of the biggest legal mistakes that might be made on your minutes.

RHONDA: There’s actually a couple mistakes that people make when it comes to legalities and the first one is with the different copies. I mean in theory youre supposed to keep the rough copy of your minutes, so all that scribble that you put on the paper. Should you be called into court, you have to testify as to what happened and if you don’t have those notes, you don’t remember what happened. So I suggest that people keep all versions of their minutes either in the minutes binder or online. And I think that’s a big mistake that people end up keeping the final copy, but they don’t keep the copies up until then and all of the copies up until then are very important for legality purposes.

SUSAN: Wow, so what you’re saying is that if I’m sitting in the meeting and I’m making my notes on my agenda, and then maybe using a piece of paper on the side, I’ve got to keep those as well?

RHONDA: Uh, in theory, yeah you are supposed to. Now, of course if you’ve got a lawyer on staff who’s talking about the freedom of information act, the lawyer is going to tell you to get rid of them. So your either keeping them deliberately or deliberately not keeping them but once you start to type so your rough notes, follow your lawyers instructions, if your lawyer doesn’t tell you, you are supposed to keep them. But once you start typing up those different versions, you are supposed to keep those different versions.

SUSAN: Oh, interesting. Wow. Now that’s one mistake, whats another mistake that people might make.

RHONDA: Another one is actually on how to get minutes approved and what they think it means to have minutes approved. When youre getting your minutes approved, what it means is you come back to your next meeting whether that’s 30 days away or 7 days away, and the entire group votes on whether they are happy with the representation of the meeting on paper or not. A lot of people actually send it to a chairperson, the chairperson signs their name on the bottom of it and says “that’s approved” or “that’s not approved”. It means the chairperson likes it but its not a legal approval, you have to go back at the next meeting and everybody has to say “yes, that’s an accurate representation of what happened.”

SUSAN: Yeah, I think that’s really important that people realize that its not just when the chair has signed it, its when everybody at the meeting has given their vote, that theyre accepting and approving these minutes as a historical document of their organization.

SUSAN: So, talk to me a little bit more about what you think about, because I get some clients to ask me this question. What do you think about people who are wanting to record their meetings. I know a lot of people ­­who are just kind of you know I’m taking notes, seems like things are going fast so I want to record the meeting. What would you say to them?

RHONDA: I really tend to turn people away from recording, I mean as if that meeting wasn’t painful enough the first time do you really want to listen to it a second time? And of course it encourages you to put way to much on paper, its really easy to transcribe, and then you get into the “who said what?” and that’s not really what we’re supposed to be doing. So, it encourages you to create a document that’s more like a transcription, not a minutes. So I say don’t record it, its too much work. Its also legality, you have to look at the fact that everybody has to be okay with you recording it, and it creates kind of a crutch that we rely on in that you’re thinking “its okay, I don’t need to pay attention, I’ll get the recording”. So I really encourage people not to go down the recording route.

SUSAN: Yeah, and I’m definitely in the same boat with respect to meetings, and I also think it kind of changes the energy or the people in the room sometimes if they know they’re being recorded, right? And not to mention the legal issues that it opens up, so I think that’s definitely sound advice, you don’t necessarily need to record your minutes.

SUSAN: Rhonda, I want to just thank you for taking the time because, you know, the minutes are a legal document, and we want to make sure we’re doing things to keep us out of any legal, or potential legal issues, so once again Rhonda Scharf from On the Right Track Training and Consulting. Thank you for your energy!

mike katz commented on 28-Jan-2013 07:52 AM
In Florida by Statute all condominium association meeting MAY be recording by anyone at the meeting, whether Board Member or Member of the Association. It might be polite to announce that you are recording but it is not necessary. If the Association records the meeting, and sometimes we do, it has been my practice (legal) to dispose of our recording and any notes taken after approval by the Board. I go by Robert's dictum that only actions taken by the Board are placed in the minutes, not discussion. Only what is done, not what is said. Many of my fellow Board members disagree with my interpretation of Roberts and would like to include discussion on each motion, and even discussion on non-agenda items that are held after the meeting is adjourned, when we allow general discussion. Michael E Katz Ft Lauderdale, FL

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