Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On notes and minutes

We continue in our quest, noble as it is, to obtain the minutes from the September 13, 2005 meeting of Village Council.  A response was brought that was along the lines that “notes” of a meeting are not public record.  The thought is that they do not become official public record until they are approved by Village Council at the next regular meeting.  I respectfully refer you all to the 2005 Sunshine Law Book, commonly known as the 2005 Yellow Book

May a draft of a public record itself be a public record?

Yes, depending on whether the definition of a “record” discussed earlier has been satisfied. If the draft documents the organization, policies, functions, decisions, procedures or other activities of a public office, it is a “record.”  The Ohio Supreme Court recently held that a written draft of an oral collective bargaining agreement between a city and its union was a “record.”  According to the Court, the draft documented the city’s version of the oral agreement and the city submitted the draft to city council for its approval.

I believe that the notes that are taken by the Village Clerk document the organization, policies, functions, decisions, procedures, and other activites of the Village Council.  Unless I am mistaken (and my ego tells me I’m not), even the handwritten notes (or however they are recorded) are to be available for public inspection in lieu of actual prepared minutes.

I am no legal scholar, but it seems to be after a reading of the Yellow Book that after those notes are transcribed to computer, they automatically become public record, even prior to Village Council’s approval.  The law does state that the Council has the right to look over the minutes at the next regular meeting and adjust them to more accurately reflect the actions of Council.  That action does not preclude the fact that prior to approval, those minutes were actual minutes of the Village Council meeting and were public record.

This may seem like an effort in futility to some, because within a few days, these records will be approved by Council and there will be no argument over these things.  The main reason that I’m pressing on this issue is because I believe that a governmental body is more apt to function properly when that government operates in the sunshine (as the Attorney General’s site states).  We as citizens are better served when such records are open to public scrutiny.  For those of us who cannot attend the regular Council meetings because of other obligations, we should not be left out in the cold for a period of thirty days or more so that Village Council can be appeased.

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