Don’t put these 6 items in the minutes!

There are half a dozen things that DO NOT BELONG in your minutes. Here they are.

1.  Things that didn’t happen don’t belong in the minutes

This may sound unlikely, but we have seen instances where after the meeting, the chair or a board member wants to put something in the minutes that didn’t actually happen. Don’t do it! Minutes are the official and legal record of your meeting. It is crucial that they be accurate.

2.  Discussion doesn’t belong in the minutes

The purpose of minutes is to record the actions taken by the body. Yet somehow there is a tide that sweeps people away into writing down what Member A said, and then what member B said, and so on. These detailed minutes are a bad idea! Read our blog post about why.

If you want to include reasons for a decision in the minutes, we recommend adding a preamble to your motion that explains the thought process behind it. If you want to demonstrate that you did due diligence, use summary minutes (read explanation here).

3.  Personal remarks don’t belong in the minutes

It is a big mistake to include personal opinions in the minutes. The clerk/secretary must not editorialize, and members’ personal remarks should not be included. Read our blog entry here for an interesting example of the political problems this can present.

4.  Putting something “on the record” doesn’t belong in the minutes

Having watched too much CSPAN, board members and elected officials sometimes want to put something “on the record.” Including something in the minutes is a privilege of the body, and technically speaking, a board or council could vote to allow this. Again, don’t do it! Turning the record of official actions into a platform for personal opinion is a mistake.

5.  Details of amendments don’t belong in the minutes

The clerk/secretary must keep careful track of amendments during discussion. Once the motion is adopted, however, the details of who proposed what, and who voted how, do not belong in the minutes. Instead, this phrase can be used: “After discussion and amendment, the following motion was adopted…”

6.  Minor procedural motions don’t belong in the minutes

There is no need to include the fact that an agenda was adopted, or that the question was called, in the minutes. These are minor procedural motions and a record of them is not needed.

So what exactly DOES belong in the minutes? Read our explanation here.

Are there other things that DON’T belong in minutes? Let us know!

And if you are in local government, here are our Guidelines for Meeting Minutes in Local Government.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.