Can we correct those minutes later?

Different rules apply to different groups.

Recently while working with a township group a question arose. “Do we have to approve our minutes and when is the latest they can be corrected?” The answer to that question lies beyond Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th Edition. A hierarchy applies:

  • Federal Constitution
  • State Constitution, State Laws, Court Interpretations
  • Local Ordinances
  • Board Rules
  • Parliamentary Authority (Roberts Rules of Order for some groups)
  • Custom

In this case, The State of Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) is a statute that supersedes Roberts Rules. OMA does not require an actual vote to approve minutes, but it is important that minutes be accurate and complete. A general recommendation is for boards to include “approval of minutes” as an agenda item. The agenda item can then also serve as a reminder that minutes must be prepared and available to the public.

OMA also states that a public body shall make any corrections in the minutes at the next meeting after the meeting to which the minutes refer. For public bodies, this is the only opportunity to change minutes. If the board has no corrections to make or does not vote to approve them, the draft minutes become “final” at that meeting.

Contrarily, if the board is not a public body, the minutes still do not require a motion for approval, but can in fact be changed at any time even after approval.

When the minutes are approved, the word “Approved,” with the secretary’s initials and the date, should be written below them.

If the existence of an error or material omission in the minutes becomes reasonably established after their approval—even many years later—the minutes can then be corrected by means of the motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted, which requires a two-thirds vote, or a majority vote with notice, or the vote of a majority of the entire membership, or unanimous consent (RONR (11th ed.), p. 475, ll. 18–24.

The next time you find yourself at a meeting questioning procedure, remember to first ask what type of group you are working with and what rules they are required to follow!

Michigan State University Extension Educators can provide your organization with assistance in learning more about parliamentary procedure. The Government and Public Policy team also offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s expert search system or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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