2007-05-30 / News

Council cuts back on meeting record

Staff Writer, The Davison Index

A condensed style of minutes following Roberts Rules of Order will remove discussion from the public and council from Davison City Council meetings.

The motion was approved Monday, May 14, with a vote of 5-1, with Councilman Ron Emery voting against.

Several years ago, the council’s tape recording device broke and it was never replaced. With the new style minutes the discussion of motions and questions from the audience will not be included. Only the motion and whether it carried.

City Manager Pete Auger told the council Monday, May 14 that Clerk Andrea Schroeder and Community Development Assistant Leigh Hider-Gauthier have gone to parliament school. The school recommends condensing the minutes to motions.

"They said we’re not supposed to record what each individual said. That’s not what the meeting is for," Schroeder said. "What matters is the motion if it carries or it does not carry through. It’s not supposed to be a record of what he said-she said. That’s not what the meeting is for."

"If we have public comments, shouldn’t the person be identified so we can refer back to that?" Councilman Ron Emery asked.

Auger said it’s not necessary. "It’s not to confuse a public meeting to a public hearing. In a public hearing, that’s when the council reports who said what for public hearing purposes. At a public meeting, the public is here to listen to council discuss official business. Therefore they recommend in the minutes is the official business."

The city of Davison has been very open with public comments, Auger said, allowing public comment both at the beginning and at the end of the meeting.

Emery asked if they could still ask the individual to identify themselves. "We just don’t have to record it, correct?" Auger said that was correct.

Councilman Keith Flewelling said the council doesn’t need to take verbatim minutes. "That’s not what official minutes are. We’re supposed to report official action. You’ve got my blessings to do it that way."

Mayor Fred Rappuhn said members can motion to include public comment on a topic after a vote by the council, board or authority.

Flewelling said unless you record the conversation, the transcriber won’t have an accurate record of it anyway.

"Official minutes are just that," he said, the minutes of official actions.

"To go beyond that, you just confuse issues and we get in trouble because of verbatim statements that were recorded that really weren’t said. We’re not here to interpret what they say."

"One of the problems you’re creating is not being able to follow a thought process on how we get from A to B," said Jim Sherman, owner of The Davison Index. "By not including the discussion or even part of the discussion, in 10 years from now we’re going to go, ‘Now, why are we doing this?’ Then you’ll be able to go back and see that ‘Mr. Flewelling did this.’"

"Communication is important," Sherman said. "This is one way of not communicating. I think it would be a far better run government if we were open and able to discuss things in the future, the past or whatever. These are suggestions, but not the ultimate way of doing things."

He asked the council to table the issue, "so that you can get a better understanding of what you’re talking about. You’re asking a lot of questions. I’m not sure if you’re going to have enough time to think those questions and answers through on this subject here."

Rappuhn said there was no issue before them that evening so there was nothing to table.

Csutoras said the style of minute taking is going all across Michigan.

Davison Township Supervisor Assistant Rhonda Clark said they record and give details about their meetings. "We feel like an explanation is due to our residents."

All of the townships minutes are available on their Web site, she said.

"We do it so there’s a clear history when we need to go back and review something," Richfield Township Clerk Lisa Holmes said. "It’s helpful for research."

However Holmes said it’s up to each jurisdiction as to how they take their minutes. Having a tape recorder is helpful, she said, if someone decides to take condensed minutes.

Grand Blanc City Clerk Bethany Smith said the city of Grand Blanc follows Roberts Rules of Order, but includes information on each item. "I like to present an accurate set of minutes based on the meeting," she said.

Smith also said they tape record their meetings and have transcripts available per the Freedom Of Information Act.

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