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Identifying a member's dissenting comments by name in the minutes


Guest Jack Sinclair

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Guest Jack Sinclair

I am a member of a small appointed municipal board. The mayor is an ex officio member and essentially has so politicized the board that he runs it,often to the detriment of local taxpayers. He recently had a motion passed prohibiting identifying a member's name and his dissenting comments in the minutes. Is this not censorship? How then do opposing views see the light of day if denied to the minutes?Surely this is contrary to democratic procedure.Is there a solution? Thank you. J.Sinclair

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"In an ordinary society, the minutes should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members." RONR (11th ed.), p. 468. A municipal board may not fall under the definition of an ordinary society.

Also, under the rules in RONR, the motion could be rescinded. See RONR (11th ed.), p. 305ff for full details.

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Also, you could check with the town's solicitor with regards to the legality of the motion - as Chris pointed out they may be a law covering the operations of municipalities in your jurisdiction and what has to be in the Minutes. As far as RONR is concerned, no debate/points of view are recorded in the Minutes as George pointed out so technically the Mayor is correct as far as RONR is concerned.

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RONR covers expressing the all views through vote - consenting and dissenting, no change needed.

I can see nothing that would require publishing dissenting views. Motion passed 6-1, it is obvious that someone didn't agree - why isn;t important because they did not have the prevailing view.

If the vote was 6-3, should the minutes spend more time space explaining the possible three separate reasons people had for voting no versus just saying what the majority passed - that is just silly?

The non RONR stuff - The democrat process is about majorities, dissenting views are by definition a minority view point.

If you want dissenting views publicized, that is not the purpose of the minutes, that is the purpose of a free press.

If it is a big issue, surely the local paper will care. If it is just one person who wants their opinion broadcast, then ...

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I am a member of a small appointed municipal board. The mayor is an ex officio member and essentially has so politicized the board that he runs it,often to the detriment of local taxpayers. He recently had a motion passed prohibiting identifying a member's name and his dissenting comments in the minutes. Is this not censorship?

So far as RONR is concerned, no one's comments should be recorded in the minutes. It's quite possible that the board's rules or applicable law provide otherwise, and that would supersede RONR.

I think it would arguably be censorship if an organization chooses to includes some comments but not others, which is one reason why RONR suggests not to include comments in the first place.

How then do opposing views see the light of day if denied to the minutes?

Some organizations choose to produce a detailed record of the debate at a meeting, separate from the minutes. This is the practice, for instance, in many legislative assemblies. The Congressional Record is one of the most famous examples of such a record.

In the absence of such a record, members could look to express their views outside of a meeting and the board in a number of venues. This is well outside the scope of this forum, but for starters, consider a local newspaper or a website.

Surely this is contrary to democratic procedure.

I disagree. As noted, even in assemblies where it is traditional to record the speeches of members, they are properly recorded in a document separate from the minutes.

Whether refusing to record the views in any record of the society is contrary to democratic procedure is for the board to decide for itself, subject to any rules imposed by applicable law.

Thanks for the input...but maybe it's time to change RONR to address the real issue which is denial of dissenting views.

As I understand the facts, no denial of dissenting views has occurred, merely a refusal to record dissenting views.

I think it would be highly unwise to amend RONR to require that speeches be recorded (let alone that they be recorded in the minutes). RONR is written for a wide range of assemblies and what might be appropriate for a municipal board might not be appropriate for a small private club.

Of course, RONR isn't going to be changed based on the personal opinions of what you or I think is appropriate for deliberative assemblies anyway.

RONR covers expressing the all views through vote - consenting and dissenting, no change needed.

I can see nothing that would require publishing dissenting views. Motion passed 6-1, it is obvious that someone didn't agree - why isn;t important because they did not have the prevailing view.

I would add that RONR also speaks quite strongly about the right of the minority to express dissenting views in debate, but I concur that nothing in RONR requires these views to be recorded.

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