by Michael B. Weinstein (Fall 2019)
Section 2.06 of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/2.06) mandates that a public body approve the minutes of an open meeting “within 30 days after the meeting or at the public body’s second subsequent regular meeting, whichever is later.” But what happens if the public body only meets once?
For example, the City Council of Aurora creates an ad hoc committee to investigate the need for an Economic Development Director. The committee meets once and concludes that there is no need for the creation of the position at the present time since current city staff are able to perform the desired job skills that would be performed by the proposed new position. Moreover, the cost to hire and train such a person is deemed to be excessive in view of the city’s current budget constraints.
One of the members of the ad hoc committee volunteered to take minutes and otherwise act as a secretary. Minutes were taken; however, in view of the committee’s recommendation, the members voted to dissolve at the end of its one, and only, meeting.
Wait! What about the minutes? When can they be approved and published as required by the Open Meetings Act?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. For those public bodies that have adopted Robert’s Rules of Order, Revised, here is what the Fourth Edition1 says:
Where the regular meetings are held weekly, monthly, or quarterly, the minutes are read at the opening of each day’s meeting, and, after correction should be approved. Where the meetings are held several days in succession with recesses during the day, the minutes are read at the opening of business each day. If the next meeting of the organization will not be held for a long period, as six months or a year, the minutes that have not been read previously should be read and approved before final adjournment. If this is impracticable, then the executive committee, or a special committee, should be authorized to correct and approve them. In this case the record should be signed as usual, and after the signatures the word “Approved,” with the date and the signature of the chairman of the committee authorized to approve them. At the next meeting, six months later, they need not be read, unless it is desired for information as it is too late to correct them intelligently.2
For public bodies that have not adopted Robert’s Rules there are other possible solutions to this dilemma. For example, the next version of an ad hoc committee could approve the minutes for publication. But our hypothetical posits that the ad hoc committee was dissolved. Does that matter? Theoretically yes, but just who is going to complain? The Public Access Counselor (PAC)?
Another possibility might be to have the committee vote on draft minutes before they dissolve. This is similar to one solution suggested by Robert’s Rules (see above). Or better yet, send copies of the minutes to each of the committee members and have them sign, approve and return their copy within 30 days of the adjournment of the one committee meeting. Technically, that might not be kosher, but again, who is going to complain?
Perhaps the minutes could be published without formal approval? However, since an official action was taken at the committee meeting (the decision to recommend that the Economic Director position not be created), it would seem that approval and publication of the minutes is required.
Conceivably, the minutes could be drafted at the single meeting with the stipulation that they would be approved and published in 30 days unless the committee were to meet again within that time frame.
Finally, what about having the full city council approve and publish the committee minutes? Perhaps that is the best alternative?
There does not appear to be any Illinois caselaw on this question. However, the above suggestions, at the very least, should provide a starting point for further discussion.
If you have questions about the drafting and approving of minutes of a public meeting, contact an attorney at Ottosen Britz.
1The Fourth Edition is the most recent edition that is in the public domain. The current edition of Robert’s Rules is the “Newly Revised, Eleventh Edition.” Presumably, the current language is similar, if not identical.
2Robert’s Rules of Order, 4th Ed. (Scott, Foresman, and Company, 1915).