Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Can a recording serve as our minutes?

Dear Dinosaur:  Can we totally dispense with written minutes and simply make a recording of the meeting available and the official record?

Answer: Under the requirements of common law, minutes are a written record of a body’s decisions. A recording does not qualify. It is merely a passive capturing of the meeting. Minutes, on the other hand, are prepared by a clerk or secretary, reviewed by the body, and formally approved by the body. They provide a degree of assurance that cannot be obtained from a recording.

It is possible that state law says something different, but absent a provision in the law, minutes must be written, approved, signed, and maintained indefinitely.

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific issues, seek a qualified authority.

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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.


  1. Jacqueline Schad on November 4, 2022 at 11:42 am

    In Oregon, public bodies are permitted to do this but there are substantial requirements for gaining approval to do it and all records must be available in a state-sanctioned database. It also requires digitizing past records which poses an obstacle for most smaller bodies. Only one other school district in our region has been able to complete the process to date.

    • Ann Macfarlane on November 4, 2022 at 4:40 pm

      Jackie, that’s very interesting. Will it be easy for the bodies concerned to access the information online? Thanks for writing.

  2. Patricia Weiss on November 4, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for this question & answer. I record the meeting, then after drafting the minutes & distributing to the BoD, await any comments. If none, then I destroy the recording, so that the only record of minutes is the hard copy.

    • Ann Macfarlane on November 4, 2022 at 4:39 pm

      Patricia, that sounds like a good practice for bodies that can do so. Public bodies usually must keep the recording, either for a definite period of time, or indefinitely. Thanks for writing!

    • Jennifer Garinger on November 8, 2022 at 9:01 am

      I was told in a training, that I must keep the recording as well. So I store them in a data base in case I am ever asked for them.

      • Ann Macfarlane on November 8, 2022 at 9:34 am

        Thank you!

  3. Heidi R. on November 7, 2022 at 7:16 am

    I work for a Special District in Oregon. We audio record our Board meetings and post those recordings on the website but we also have written minutes that go through the approval process. These written minutes have a permanent retention. We are able to delete the audio recording a year after the written minutes are approved, according to the retention schedule for Counties and Special Districts set by the state.

    • Ann Macfarlane on November 7, 2022 at 9:22 am

      That sounds good to me! Personally I believe that a written record is essential. Thanks for writing!