Ohio law requires boards of education to record the proceedings of their meetings. This document, which is more commonly known as the “minutes” of a meeting, constitutes the official record of all board actions and serves an important role in providing key information to members of the public.
Ohio Revised Code does not provide details about what should be contained in a board’s minutes. However, in White v. Clinton Cty., a 1996 case considering the law requiring county commissioners to prepare a complete record of their proceedings, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that minutes must be of sufficient specificity that an individual who was not present at the meeting could read them and understand and appreciate both the board’s official actions and the rationale behind them.
In the opinion, the court recognized that most people’s day-to-day schedules left them little time to attend government meetings. The court found tremendous value in providing Ohio’s citizens with the opportunity to “examine a full and complete copy of the recordings of the proceedings” so they could stay informed about the actions and thoughts of their elected officials. Without defining what constitutes a full and complete copy of the recordings of the proceedings, the court held that minutes for a meeting must contain more than a simple listing of the resolutions that the board considered and the votes cast on each issue.
A board of education is not required to provide this level of specificity for the conversations that occur during an executive session. Under Ohio law, only the general subject matter of discussions in executive session must be disclosed in the minutes. A board may accomplish this by noting the applicable permissible purpose(s) for an executive session, listed under RC 121.22(G), in its minutes. There is no requirement for the minutes to provide any further specificity about what was discussed. Boards should be cautious of keeping detailed minutes of their executive session discussions, as disclosure of such records may be required as part of a public records request or during any subsequent litigation.
It is important that members’ late arrivals or early departures be recorded in the minutes. An accurate record of who is present throughout the meeting is important for determining if a quorum exists and ascertaining the number of votes needed to pass resolutions as well as who was present or absent when actions or discussions occurred.
Occasionally, OSBA receives questions about how much of the discussion during the board’s public comment period should be included in the minutes. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, minutes are a record of the decisions made by the body and should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting. Some boards use their minutes to list the names of those who spoke during public participation and the general nature of the speakers’ comments, but boards of education are not required to publish formal statements provided by members of the public during public participation as part of their minutes.
More information about preparing, approving and maintaining meeting minutes can be found in the August 2022 OSBA Journal. If you have additional questions, please reach out to OSBA’s division of legal services at 855-OSBA-LAW.