No after-the-fact comments in minutes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

British Prime Minster Robert Walpole

As our faithful readers know, Robert’s Rules affirms that minutes contain what is DONE, not what is SAID. Personal remarks and commentary do not belong in meeting minutes.

By extension there is no place for after-the-fact comments in the minutes, either. The minutes are the record of the meeting itself. If your council or board members want to supply additional thoughts once a meeting has concluded, don’t do it!

WHY are after-the-fact comments a bad idea?

  • This practice is contrary to the purpose of minutes.
  • This practice muddies the waters.
  • This practice keeps people from focusing on the fact that a board does its work as a whole. A public body or board is not just a conglomeration of individuals, it is an entity which possesses collective authority.

After-the-fact comments in history

Sometimes history casts an interesting sidelight on current procedural issues. In his biography of British Prime Minster Robert Walpole, the historian J.H.Plumb writes that “Any peer had an ancient right to have his written protest against any measure entered into the Journals of the House of Lords; the custom, although ancient, was more or less moribund.”

During a parliamentary fight in 1722, Lords Cowper and Wharton revived this custom. They also had their protests printed. Since reporters were not allowed to attend parliament, it was a new thing to read about the conflicts of opinion in the House of Lords. This caught the fancy of the public, keeping partisan feeling alive and making things tough for the government.

2 Comments

  1. Lynda Schram on September 11, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Really enjoyed this article.
    So, don’t even start to muddy the waters. Once you open Pandora’s box it might be hard to shut no matter how mundane you think the comments or information might be. I enjoyed the example of the House of Lords old practice. Honestly I had to look up “MORIBUND” = dying or waning.
    I actually had to stop our association’s secretary from printing her “feelings” about why she was against Directors and Officers insurance last year in the minutes. Nice try, but we didn’t let her get away with it. – Lynda S, Woodinville

    • Ann Macfarlane on September 11, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      Great example Linda thank you!!

Leave a Comment