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Minute Taking Tips

Keeping an accurate record of your meeting is vital for the history of our governance and allows interested members of the public to stay informed on City business. Check out this template for minutes that can be used to keep accurate records of your meetings.

Minutes should not be published until the Committee has approved them at their regular meeting. Once the minutes have been approved, please send them to the City Clerk’s office so they can be published to the website.

Tip #1 - Minute Contents:

Should contain Should not contain
  • Name of legislative body
  • Meeting time, date, place and type of meeting
  • Name of presiding officer
  • Names of those present and those absent
  • A description of each item of business
  • Highlights of discussion resulting in action
  • The exact disposition of each item
    • All motions whether passed or lost
    • Signature of the secretary; they may also be signed by the Chair.
    • Adjournment time
  • Personal opinions
  • Interpretations
  • Descriptive or judgmental phrases
  • Adverse criticism of members, staff or others
  • “He said, she said, they said” – In other words, there is no object in reporting on the debate; the duty of the minutes-taker is to record what is “done” by the legislative body and not what is said by individual members (there are exceptions).

Tip #2 - Style and Tone:

  • The style is narrative.
  • The tone is impersonal and objective.
  • No descriptive or judgmental phrases such as “a heated debate.”
  • Always use formal names, never use just first names.
  • Always identify individuals with their titles.
  • Always identify acronyms (i.e. SCAG, CDBG)
  • Use few adjectives and a minimum of pronouns.
  • Never use the following pronouns: I, You, We, Our

Tip #3 - Form of Minutes:

The suggested form of minutes are brief summary minutes:

Brief summary minutes, at a minimum, record the final decisions made; and, at a maximum, may record what advice the body was given to enable it to make its decisions, the body’s thought process in making the decision, and the final decisions made. Emphasis is given on the body’s thought process, not individual members’ thought processes. The minutes should summarize only the main points which arose in discussion if and only if they are relevant to the decision.

Comments made by members such as “for the record” or “for the minutes” have no bearing on the content of minutes and are given no greater and no lesser consideration than other comments made at the public meeting.

While the primary purpose of minutes is to memorialize decisions made by the legislative body as a whole, under limited circumstances it is necessary and/or appropriate to attribute comments to individual members including:

  • Individual member’s reports pursuant to Government Code 53232.3(d) (enacted by AB 1234, 2005). The minute record shall include the type of meeting attended at the expense of the local agency and the subject matter.
  • Individual member’s reports on intergovernmental agencies. Brief summary minutes should include the type of meeting at a minimum, and, at the maximum, include the subject matter.
  • Individuals speaking under public comment. Brief summary minutes shall, at a minimum, list the public member’s name (if provided); and, at a maximum, include the overall topic and stance/position. Such as Mr. Jones spoke in opposition to the Project X. Being mindful that the minutes are recordings of the legislative body’s proceedings, it is not appropriate to include detail of individual comments.

Many boards and commissions take few legislative actions, and the tendency is to include more detail in the minutes on event reports and planning. At a maximum, brief summary minutes may include key points of the final reports or determinations, and all comments shall be attributable to the entire body and not attributable to individual members.

Tip #4 - Approval of Minutes:

Each member has the opportunity to vote on any item on the agenda, excluding matters where there is a conflict of interest. A member's absence from the meeting for which minutes are being approved does not prevent the member from participating in their correction or approval.

Minutes Template

Download Minutes Template

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