Expediting the approval of minutes

Quarterly meetings: It may be helpful to approve minutes quickly before the next meeting.

The Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team received a question from a member of a Michigan planning commission. The individual was wondering “is it permissible to have the secretary write up the minutes at the meeting, and then before the meeting is adjourned, read them to the commission and approve them that night? We only meet quarterly and it’s difficult to remember what happened 3 months later.” The quick answer is that yes, this is permissible, if proper procedures are followed.

A deeper review into the Michigan Planning Enabling Act shows that a planning commission shall hold not less than 4 regular meetings each year and that the business that a planning commission performs shall be conducted in compliance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act. Additionally, writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a planning commission in the performance of an official function shall be made available to the public in compliance with the freedom of information act.

The Michigan Open Meetings Act requires that official minutes reflect all actions taken by the board. With respect to minutes, it highlights that a public body shall make proposed minutes available for public inspection within eight business days after the meeting to which the minutes refer. The public body shall make approved minutes available for public inspection within five business days after the meeting at which the minutes are approved by the public body. If a planning commission approved its minutes at the meeting, it should have them available to the public five days after.

The minutes can be approved in a couple of ways, but it is not necessary to read minutes to the commission. Board members do need to review the minutes in some manner prior to approval. One option could include copying and distributing printed minutes, or another option might include projecting them on a screen for all members to see simultaneously.

If the planning commission decides to approve the minutes at their meeting, they should put approval of current meeting minutes as the last item on the agenda before adjournment. It is typical for public bodies to make a motion to adopt the minutes so that it appears in the minutes. That is critical because it needs to be documented clearly when approval of the minutes occurs.

The MSU Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team offers professional development training, including volunteer board development, communicating through conflict, meeting management and facilitation skills development, and organizational strategic visioning and planning.

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