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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK
DATE: MAY 16, 2006
SUBJECT: FORMAT OF CITY COUNCIL MINUTES
Provide direction to staff regarding the format of City Council minutes.
Since FY 02-03, the City Clerk’s Office has used two contract minute takers to prepare detailed minutes of the City Council meetings. Over the last year, the turn around time for the draft minutes has steadily declined from an average of 39 days and is currently running seven months behind. At the April 29, 2006 Budget Workshop, staff requested that the budget for minute takers be increased by $17,000 (from $11,600 to $28,600) in FY 06-07 in order to hire additional contractual help to eliminate the backlog and to accommodate the increasing length and complexity of the minutes going forward. Council decided to delay action on staff’s requested budget increase and directed staff to prepare a report on utilizing summary minutes and on-line Council meeting video clips rather than continuing to prepare detailed minutes.
1. Types of Minutes
Minutes can be prepared in several different formats. Once approved, the minutes become the official record of what took place at the meeting and may be subpoenaed for court purposes. The only legal requirement for the content of minutes is contained in Government Code Section 36814, which states “The Council shall cause the clerk to keep a correct record of its proceedings. At the request of a member, the city clerk shall enter the ayes and noes in the journal.” The Government Code is silent regarding the “style” and whether the minutes should be action, summary, detailed or verbatim.
The various minute styles are described below:
Action Minutes: Records the meeting date, indicates whether the meeting is regular, adjourned, special or emergency, notes the meeting location, starting and ending times, names of Council members and staff present, lists the speakers and whether they were in favor or opposed to the item, indicates the motions made, the name of the maker and seconder, and the vote, whether by roll call or by voice, and a statement of the action (minute order, resolution or ordinance).
Summary Minutes: Contains all the items included in action minutes and presents a brief summary of the Council’s discussion points.
Detailed Minutes: Contains all the items included in action minutes, plus a detailed record of all discussion, including extensive commentary by members of the public and City Council. The comments of each speaker range from a few sentences to a few paragraphs.
Verbatim Minutes: Provides an exact transcription of what was said at the meeting and are prepared by a court reporter or other similar service.
2. Current Practice
From the City’s incorporation in 1973 until late 2001, the minutes of City Council meetings were prepared in summary format primarily using in-house staff. Once the draft minutes have been prepared, the City Clerk, City Manager, pertinent City staff and City Council review them before they are approved and considered final.
On October 2, 2001, Council directed the City Clerk to begin preparing detailed minutes of City Council meetings (see attached staff report and except minutes from that meeting). During the first eight months of preparing detailed minutes, the City Clerk’s Office used a combination of in-house staff and contract minute takers, but switched to using contract minute takers exclusively in July 2002 when the City Clerk’s Office was reduced from three full-time employees to two.
Although the number of Council meetings has fluctuated over the last seven years between a low of 30 in 2003 to a high of 41 in 2002 and 2004, the length of the minutes has increased dramatically in the years since the City Clerk’s Office began preparing detailed minutes in October 2001:
VOLUME OF CITY COUNCIL MINUTES
The chart below compares the cost of preparing minutes since FY 99-00:
COST OF PREPARING COUNCIL MINUTES
It should be noted that staff is unable to accurately determine the cost of preparing the minutes prior to FY 02-03. As mentioned previously, in FY 99-00, FY 00-01 and FY 01-02, the City Clerk’s Office had three employees. Prior to switching to contract minutes takers, the Deputy City Clerk attended the City Council meetings and prepared the draft minutes. Most of the transcription time was conducted during regular office hours and the overtime costs were generally for her time attending the Council meetings. The figures presented in the chart for in-house staff cannot be verified without conducting a lengthy review the old time sheets. This is because part of her overtime may have been engaged in other activities, or could be attributed to the other non-exempt employee or may be inaccurate because the Deputy City Clerk sometimes took compensatory time off in lieu of paid overtime.
3. Changes in Technology
In 1996, the City began posting the City Council meeting agendas on its website. Following a significant upgrade of the site in 2000, the City began linking the associated staff report to the items listed on the meeting agenda. Since August 2001, the City has provided live and on-demand broadcasts of City meetings from its website, which allow for complete and unedited viewing of City Council meetings. Commencing in August 2002, further improvements in technology have allowed the City to link video clips from the meeting to each item listed on the Council agenda. As a result, if Council members, staff and members of the public with access to the Internet can avail themselves of the convenience of accessing the City’s web site at any time of the day or night and watch the entirety of the Council’s discussion on a given item.
The written minutes are the official record of City Council meetings and those minutes are permanent records of the City. Likewise, the digital recordings of the City Council meetings are permanent records of the City. Since October 2001, the City Clerk’s Office has produced detailed minutes of the City Council meetings. The length of time and cost required to prepare detailed summary minutes has increased substantially since that time. Since August 2002, the City has linked video clips from the broadcast of the City Council meeting to the meeting agendas posted on the City’s website.
It was suggested at the Budget Workshop that Council consider discontinuing the City’s current practice of preparing detailed minutes and switch back to summary minutes. If the City returns to summary minutes, the City Clerk’s Office can transcribe detailed minutes for Council meetings that are not recorded for broadcast and can prepare detailed excerpt minutes from past meetings when so directed by Council. Staff is seeking direction from Council if the advances in technology that have occurred since 2001 obviate the need to prepare detailed written minutes.
Preparing summary minutes would significantly decrease the current cost of contract professional services by at least half and perhaps slightly more. Although there is no direct fiscal impact, it would also significantly decrease the turn around time for the preparation of draft minutes.
Staff Report and Excerpt Minutes from October 2, 2001