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Minutes, also known as protocols, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They often give an overview of the structure of the meeting, starting with a list of those present, a statement of the various issues before the participants, and each of their responses thereto. They are often created at the moment of the hearing by a typist or court recorder at the meeting, who may record the meeting in shorthand, and then prepare the minutes and issue them to the participants afterwards. Alternatively, the meeting may be audiorecorded or notes taken, and the minutes prepared later. However it is often important for the minutes to be brief and concentrate on material issues rather than being a verbatim report, so the minute-taker should have sufficient understanding of the subject matter to achieve this. The minutes of certain entities, such as a corporate board of directors, must be kept and are important legal documents.

Contents

Public minutes

Most public meetings and governmental hearings follow prescribed rules. Often speakers' words are recorded verbatim, or with only minor paraphrasing, so that every speaker's comments are included. This is generally required at public hearings that are called to address a particular issue, as distinct from other types of public meetings, which may not strictly required verbatim records of all comments made.

Format

Generally, minutes begin with the name of the body (eg a committee) holding the meeting, place, date, list of people present, and the time that the chair called the meeting to order. The minutes then record what was actually said at the meeting, either in the order that it was actually said or in a more coherent order, regardless of whether the meeting follows (or ignores) any written agenda. A less often used format may record the events in the order they occur on the written agenda, regardless of the actual chronology.

Since the primary function of minutes is to record the decisions made, any and all official decisions must be included. If a formal motion is proposed, seconded, passed, or not, then this is recorded. The voting tally may also be included. The part of the minutes dealing with a routine motion might note merely that a particular motion was "moved by Ann and passed unanimously." It is not necessary to include the name of the person who seconds a motion. Where a tally is included, it is sufficient to record the number of people voting for and against a motion (or abstaining), but requests by participants to note their votes by name may be allowed. If a decision is made by roll call vote, then all of the individual votes are often recorded by name. If it is made by general consent without a formal vote, then this fact may be recorded. Tallies may be omitted in some cases (e.g. a minute might read "After voting, the Committee agreed to...").

It is also often common for adherents to the "less is more" approach to include certain facts: for example, that financial reports were presented, or that a legal issue (such as a potential conflict of interest) was discussed, or that a particular aspect of an issue was duly considered, or that a person arrived late (or left early) at a particular time. The minutes may end with a note of the time that the meeting was adjourned.

Minutes in businesses and other private organizations are sometimes submitted by and over the name of the officer of the organization or committee who is responsible for them (often the Secretary - not the typist, even if the typist actually drafted the document!) at a subsequent meeting for review. The traditional closing phrase is "Respectfully submitted," (although that phrase is slowly falling out of use) followed by the officer's signature, his or her typed (or printed) name, and his or her title.

If the members of the committee or group then agree that the written minutes reflect what happened at the meeting, then they are approved, and the fact of their approval is recorded in the minutes of the current meeting. If there are major errors or omissions, then the minutes will be redrafted and submitted again at a later date. However minor changes may be made immediately, and the amended minutes may be approved "as amended" or e.g. "subject to adding Amanda Schroder's name to the list of attendees". It is normally appropriate to send a draft copy of the minutes to all the members in advance of the meeting so that the meeting need not be delayed while everyone reads and corrects the draft. It is also unwise to approve minutes which one has not read.

Business and other meetings commonly assign tasks to individuals (or bodies). Usually (but not always) this is someone who is attending the meeting. This is known as "placing an action". The assignment of a task to an individual is an important decision by the meeting and so all actions must be accurately recorded in the minutes. Reviewing past actions often takes a prominent place in the agenda.

See also

Minutes Software

Minutes Of Meeting

References

  • Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, entry on Minutes. West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1991.
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