Action minutes are basically a version of the agenda with information regarding actions taken, with little information about what happened.  The City of San Bernardino keeps action minutes.  This practice appears to have started under Rachel Clark, the former City Clerk, and continued under the current regime of City Clerk Georgeann “Gigi” Hanna.  The minutes of January 23, 2012 (under Rachel Clark are action minutes), but the minutes of January 18, 2012 are not action minutes.  Yet, the March 5, 2012 minutes, under Gigi Hanna’s term, are not action minutes.  However, by March 20, 2012, the minutes are action minutes.

    Here is an example from the draft minutes of the December 3, 2012 Mayor and Common Council Meeting:

    7H. Public Works
    Direct Staff to Prepare Amendments to Existing Agreements with Burrtec and Republic for Waste, Recyclables and Greenwaste Processing
    Council Member Kelley made a motion, seconded by Council Member Marquez, to direct staff to prepare amendments to existing agreements with Burrtec and Republic for a five-year term, with a single five-year extension option for waste, recyclables and greenwaste processing for the Mayor and Common Council’s approval. No vote was taken.
    Council Member McCammack made a substitute motion, seconded by Council Member Valdivia, to direct staff to prepare amendments to existing agreements with Burrtec and Republic for a ten-year term, with five one-year extension options for waste, recyclables and greenwaste processing for the Mayor and Common Council’s approval. The vote was taken following further discussion.
    Joint Regular Meeting Minutes December 3, 2012
    Mayor and Common Council of the City of San Bernardino Page 9 Printed 12/26/2012
    Motion: Direct staff to prepare amendments to existing agreements with Burrtec and Republic for a ten-year term, with five one-year extension options for waste, recyclables and greenwaste processing for the Mayor and Common Council’s approval; and give the City Manager and the City Attorney authorization to begin the commencement date of the two agreements earlier if the needs of the bankruptcy court and the litigation with the County so require. RESULT: VOTE FOR APPROVAL VETOED BY MAYOR MOVER: Wendy J. McCammack, Council Member, Ward 7 SECONDER: John Valdivia, Council Member, Ward 3 AYES: Robert D. Jenkins, John Valdivia, Chas A. Kelley, Wendy J. McCammack NAYS: Virginia Marquez, Fred Shorett, Rikke Van Johnson
    Motion: Direct staff to prepare amendments to existing agreements with Burrtec and Republic for a five-year term, with a single-five-year extension option for waste, recyclables and greenwaste processing for the Mayor and Common Council’s approval; and give the City Manager and the City Attorney authorization to begin the commencement date of the two agreements earlier if the needs of the bankruptcy court and the litigation with the County so require. RESULT: ADOPTED [4 TO 3] MOVER: Fred Shorett, Council Member, Ward 4 SECONDER: Virginia Marquez, Council Member, Ward 1 AYES: Virginia Marquez, Fred Shorett, Chas A. Kelley, Rikke Van Johnson NAYS: Robert D. Jenkins, John Valdivia, Wendy J. McCammack

    Yes, these minutes say what happened and the vote, but they lack any information about the substance of what the council members were discussing.  Just that the “vote was taken following further discussion.  In today’s San Bernardino Sun, attorneys for CalPERS are complaining that they can’t get information about what happened at meetings.  This particular item was contentious, but we cannot get a flavor for what happened by looking at the minutes.  We would have to go to either a secondary source, such as the twitter feeds, if available from journalists, or a newspaper account.  In the alternative, if it is available, we would have to look at the video of the meeting.

    However, as time goes by, the minutes are often the only account of what happened.  Not just the final score, which can be found in an adopted resolution or ordinance or action minutes.  The minutes give important information about the legislative intent of a particular action.  I’m eventually writing a post on the history of the City of San Bernardino’s property maintenance ordinance.  Action minutes would not have given this information:

    Colleen Holthouse, 1123 East 35th Street, asked questions regarding the provisions in the proposed ordinance for recreational vehicles and motor homes.

    Mayor Holcomb explained the existing law with respect to recreational vehicles and stated that the proposed ordinance will not change what is presently in effect. Recreational vehicles
    will be allowed to park on improved surfaces.  Minutes of the Mayor and Common Council Meeting, September 9, 1989.

    This information is interesting, at least mildly, historically because it tells of what the public was interested in regarding the proposed ordinance.  This information is also legally interesting, at least mildly, because it provides some legislative history regarding the adoption of the ordinance, which provides the majority of the current property maintenance ordinance (though there are now prohibitions on parking recreational vehicles that were passed later).

    Thus, action minutes are terrible because they do not accurately reflect what happened at a council meeting, they are more a box score than an account of a game, to use a baseball analogy.  They should be abandoned, and detailed minutes should be taken.

     

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