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Workshop covers elements of effective meetings

By Grace Lovins

Elements of effective city meetings were the topic of a special workshop session on Monday, February 5, with the Birmingham City Commission, during which Michigan Municipal League Parliamentarian Eleanor “Coco” Siewert provided a presentation to commissioners.

Siewert, formerly the Birmingham mayor and commissioner in the 1980s and 1990s, provided a detailed presentation on the parliamentary procedures of municipal meetings, highlighting the objectives of the procedures and best practices that she has observed.

The beginning of the workshop was spent reviewing the “Funnel of Laws,” as Siewert put it, that the commission has to follow starting with the constitution, trickling down to Robert’s Rules of Order.

During her presentation, Siewert talked about the recording of minutes that is required of municipalities for public record. She stated that it’s common practice for most municipalities, and good practice in her opinion, to only include a succinct description of what happened during the meeting rather than a detailed explanation of everything that took place and what was said.

She explained that describing what was said and the position a commissioner or member of the public took during the meeting means the clerk has to interpret what the person was saying. Siewert affirmed that the commission is currently using good practices in terms of how they record their meeting minutes.

The discussion about the recording of the minutes brought commissioner Andrew Haig to question the record retention for the city’s paper minutes and video recorded meetings. He asked what the retention policy was for the video records.

According to city attorney Mary Kucharek, there is no legal requirement under the Open Meetings Act or Robert’s Rules for the retention of the video recordings, only for the recorded written minutes. “What’s required under law is what we’re already doing,” she said.

After Siewert’s presentation and discussion, commissioners moved onto talking about the city’s ethics board attending a meeting to provide a presentation. Kucharek told the commission that the board was looking for some details before providing a presentation.

The ethics board wanted clarification on what the commission was looking for in terms of how the presentation should be formatted, who their target audience is, and if there would be an expectation of accountability, said Kucharek.

It was suggested by commissioner Brad Host that the commission give Kucharek a written response for her to accept and bring to the ethics board. The commission approved the idea in a 7-0 vote.


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