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Minutes of Governing Body Meetings

Reference Number: MTAS-424
Reviewed Date: 06/24/2022

The Tennessee Open Meetings Act (hereinafter "TOMA") also addresses minutes of meetings of governing bodies. The language in T.C.A. § 8-44-104 requires:

(a) The minutes of a meeting of any governmental body shall be promptly and fully recorded, shall be open to public inspection, and shall include, but not be limited to, a record of the persons present, all motions, proposals and resolutions offered, the results of any votes taken, and a record of individual votes in the event of a roll call.

(b) All votes of any such governmental body shall be by public vote or public ballot or public roll call. No secret votes, or secret ballots, or secret roll calls shall be allowed. As used in this chapter, "public vote" means a vote in which the "aye" faction vocally expresses its will in unison and in which the "nay" faction, subsequently, vocally expresses its will in unison.

In a rather alarming opinion, the Court of Appeals found beer board meeting minutes to be insufficient under the Act in the unreported case Grace Fellowship Church of Loudon County v. Lenoir City Beer Board, 2002 WL 88874 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan, 23, 2002). The church challenged the issuance of a beer permit that was in violation of a distance requirement contained in the city ordinance. An application for the beer permit was denied at first but was granted on reconsideration at a later meeting. The minutes for both meetings state the time and location, identify the application being considered, name the member making the motion, and record the vote of each of the two board members. Nevertheless, the court found the minutes to be lacking information but failed to specify what was missing from the minutes. The minutes did not list the names of members present at the meeting, but since this was a board composed at the time of only two members whose votes were recorded, it is difficult to conclude that this omission alone led to the court’s decision. In any event, cities should take notice of this opinion and strive to record in detail all events that occur in meetings.

Boards or councils may take action in subsequent meetings to correct or cure deficiencies in meeting minutes without being required to debate issues again or call for votes a second time as long as debate and discussion actually occurred during the earlier meeting. Zseltvay v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, 986 S.W.2d 581 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999).

Additionally, notes from a meeting taken by staff or members of the governing body and minutes that are in draft format that have not been approved are subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act.