We are often asked about the correct process for distributing the minutes immediately after a meeting. The confusion usually arises in terms of who should be checking and making amendments to these initial minutes before they are distributed to meeting attendees.
Firstly, it is critical that the minutes are distributed as quickly as possible after a meeting. This not only ensures that they will be read, but meeting attendees will be reminded of the outcomes of the meeting and the necessary actions that now need to take place. Best practice recommends that minutes of meetings are distributed no later than five days after a meeting. It is often not the minute taker who is to blame for the delay in the distribution of minutes, but rather a non-compliant Chair who takes a while to approve them which delays this process.
Who is entitled to approve the minutes before distribution? We often encounter organisations where many parties edit and amend not only the grammar, but also the content of the minutes before the meeting secretary distributes the minutes to all members. This is actually in contravention of Robert’s Rules of Order: The Rules state that all amendments to minutes should only be made at the next meeting and agreed to by unanimous decision.
Robert’s Rules of order clearly state that in the next meeting the Chair is required to ask all meeting attendees “are there any corrections to the minutes? Corrections, when proposed, are usually handled by unanimous consent, but if any member objects to a proposed correction – which is, in effect, a subsidiary motion to Amend – the usual rules governing consideration of amendments to a main motion are applicable.”
“The only proper way to object to the approval of the secretary’s draft of the minutes is to offer a correction to it.”
If we interpret Robert’s Rules of Order we can see that initial amendments to the minutes are actually not permissible, yet it is commonly accepted best practice that the Chair must approve the minutes of the meeting before they are distributed. This takes place in many organisations and ideally should consist of the Chair focusing on grammatical and spelling errors. In fact typing errors including grammar and spelling may be amended at any time without unanimous consent provided the content of the minutes is not affected. But what are organisations supposed to do when the Minute Taker has clearly made a mistake in the content?
In her book, “Taking Minutes of Meetings” by Joanne Gutman, she writes about the Chairperson’s approval (taking no more than two to three days after a meeting) “The chairperson should check the minutes for factual accuracy and ‘political correctness’ – phrasing that may cause offence or that does not represent the view of the group. The chairperson should not add any extra information or change the minutes to suit personal views.”
The accepted best practice for the initial approval and distribution of minutes does therefore allow for the Chair’s amendment to the minutes in accordance with these guidelines, but only the Chair should be entitled to make amendments to initial minutes of meetings. We also recommend that the Meeting Secretary retains the evidence of the Chair’s amendments for evidence purposes and obtains approval from the Chair in writing, even if this is via email.
For more guidance regarding best practice for minutes of meetings and minute taking skills, contact us for training at The Minute Taker’s Clinic.
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