|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: March 13, 1996
You have the following question: Can a commissioner, without the approval of the city commission, add to the minutes of the commission printed or written material? In your case, a member of the city commission wishes to have added to the minutes certain documents he thinks are pertinent to the meeting/s of the commission.
The answer is no. In fact, the commission should not approve the addition of such material to the minutes. Even if it has been added, it is probably within the power of the commission to remove it; indeed, the commission may have the duty to remove it. It is true that Congressmen regularly add printed material of various kinds to the Congressional Record as if the material was actually presented in the proceedings of the Congress, but that practice affords no precedent for municipalities. In fact, even printed and written material that is a part of the debate in municipal governing bodies should not become a part of the minutes, although it is a common practice of some municipalities to make ordinances a part of the minutes. Obviously, printed and written material of various kinds may be referred to in meetings of municipal councils, but is not generally included in the minutes themselves.
It is said in 62 C.J.S., Municipal Corporations, Sec. 409 that “Changes or additions ordinarily may not be made in the minutes or records of the governing body without its authority either expressly or by implication.” Article V, Sec. 6 of your City Charter says that, “the said board shall exercise its power in session duly assembled, and no member or group of members thereof shall exercise or attempt to exercise the powers conferred upon the board except through proceedings adopted at some regular or special session” [Emphasis is mine.] In addition, Article IX, Sec. 3 of the charter also provides that:
It shall be the duty of the recorder to be present at all meetings of the Board of Commissioners, and to keep a full and accurate record of all business transacted by the same to be preserved in permanent book form. [Emphasis is mine.]
A similar provision appears in the Municipal Code, section 1-402.
It is also said in 62 C.J.S., Municipal Corporations, Sec. 409 that, “Since a municipal corporation can speak only through its records, it should keep a correct record of its proceedings, and in order for it to transact the business of the municipal corporation, the action taken by it should be promptly entered in the minutes and records of its operation.” [Emphasis is mine.]
The same authority further says:
It is the right and duty of the governing body of a municipal corporation to approve and verify its minutes of proceedings, to the end that there may be a true record of the corporate actions and proceedings. The record of the proceedings of a municipal council or governing body does not have to be written at the session of the council. Such bodies are authorized and required to see that their minutes and recorded proceedings show and continue to speak the truth. [Emphasis is mine.]
Finally, 3 McQuillen, Municipal Corporations , Sec. 14.02 says, “The essential thing is that the record is an accurate account of what transpired, i.e., that the record is the clerk’s records, which shows the truth.” [Emphasis is mine.]
3 A.L.R. 1308 declares that “the right of amendment by a board of aldermen of its minutes or by the clerk of a municipal corporation is very broad.” None of the cases in that treatise suggest that the same right is enjoyed by individual members of municipal councils. But in all those cases, the function of amendments or corrections is to insure that the minutes “speak the truth.”
It is clearly the function of municipal minutes that they reflect the truth of what transpired at municipal council meetings, particularly with respect to who proposed what, and the vote on the proposal. For that reason, even if the board of commissioners approved the addition of extraneous materials to its minutes, the same board has the right--and may even have the duty--to remove such material to insure that the minutes speak the truth of what happened at the meeting.
Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised, which in section 1-103 of the Municipal Code, the commission has adopted to govern council procedures not otherwise prescribed by the charter, also contains enlightenment on what should go into (and be left out of) the minutes. Section 47 says, “they should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the member.” [Emphasis is RRONR’s.] That is an extremely important point: what the member said, even during the meeting, is not what the minutes are concerned about. The same rule logically applies to what the member seeks to say via printed material he wishes to be added to the minutes either during or after a meeting. An elaborate discussion of the minutes and what goes into them is contained in Section 47; nowhere does it even imply that any extraneous material goes into them.
For those reasons, there is no room in the minutes of municipal governing bodies for extraneous material, either with or without the approval of the commission. If such material is put in the minutes, the same commission can, and probably should, remove it.
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant