02-06Posted on Aug 23, 2002 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 02-06
August 23, 2002
Withholding of Minutes of a Public Meeting
OIP Opinion Letter Number 02-06 discusses a board’s discretion, under the UIPA and the Sunshine Law, to withhold tapes, transcripts, notes, and minutes of meetings open to the public.
The OIP opined that audiotape recordings made by boards of meetings open to the public are public records. Likewise, when a full transcript is made of a meeting, that transcript is a public record.
Notes taken by an individual assigned to record the minutes of a meeting are public records, but while in the editorial process these notes may be withheld until put in a form suitable for submission to a board.
Once they are in a form suitable for submission, however, these draft minutes are public records, inasmuch as they reflect events that took place in full view of the public at the open meeting and are essentially a summary of those events, even though unapproved by a board and considered to be a “draft.”
Approval of minutes of open meetings must take place at open meetings, as approval of minutes is not listed in the Sunshine Law as a purpose for which a board is authorized to hold a meeting closed to the
public, or as an activity which a board is authorized to conduct outside of a meeting open to the public.
The OIP noted that there is no requirement in the Sunshine Law that a board approve minutes, and therefore boards do not have discretion to withhold minutes from the public based on whether or not the minutes have been approved by a board. Although boards may elect to formally approve minutes, if minutes have not been approved by 30 days after the date of the meeting, minutes, in some form, must be made available to the public.
The OIP therefore encourages boards that wish to formally approve minutes to do so within 30 days of the date of the meeting. This will ensure that the public has access to minutes that have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness. The OIP also suggests that, when disclosing unapproved minutes, the board stamp or mark the minutes “DRAFT” so that the public is on notice that the minutes may be corrected or amended at a later date.