People who rely on near-verbatim minutes to learn about the actions and debates of the
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
can rest assured that the practice will continue. On June 11, 2008, the Board voted 5 to 1 (Boyd against)
to continue providing detailed minutes of Board meetings and work sessions
, and authorized the allocation of up to $35,000 to hire additional transcribers.
Listen using player above or download the podcast:
The idea was one of the recommendations of a facilitator hired for last year’s Board retreat. Mike Chandler of Chandler Planning had suggested several ways for the Board to operate more efficiently. In January, the Board agreed to take up some of his suggestions, including the holding of a third meeting every month where necessary, the adoption of “Small Board” procedures, and to clarify the ways the public can interact with the Board during public meetings. The Board also agreed to consider at a future meeting whether summary minutes would be acceptable given that the County now posts a full audio podcast for each meeting.
Virginia code does not require detailed minutes and does not set a specific deadline for when minutes should be made available. The County currently produces detailed, near-verbatim minutes, but staff has suggested the County could save money by switching to summary minutes, which would record the votes, resolutions and ordinances, but would allow the transcriber to summarize discussions. Staff are also several months behind on preparing minutes for Board approval.
In the report prepared for the work session, staff estimated that it takes 27 hours of labor to produce a set of minutes for a six-hour board meeting. The problem is compounded by the greater frequency of Board meetings since 2000. Staff said additional revenues would be required to hire someone to assist staff with near-verbatim minutes.
(Jack Jouett) said he supported the production of complete minutes because it is important for the public to have access to an accurate record of what happened.
“The problem with abbreviated minutes is that somebody has to make an editing decision about what gets reflected and what doesn’t,” Rooker said.
(Rivanna) asked if the cost would be worth it, given that only a handful of people use them. Supervisor
(White Hall) said the minutes would be used more if they were updated on a timely basis. She also said podcasts are a good supplement to the minutes, but are not a substitute. Boyd then suggested the County could save money by dropping the podcasts. Supervisor
(Rio) said he was “not prepared to cut back on access to that information” and the County needed to get caught up and stay caught up.
(Samuel Miller) said she supported the goal of getting minutes posted online quicker, but that the cost of doing so might be better spent unfreezing one of the County’s frozen positions.
(Scottsville) said he had trouble seeing the difference between summary and verbatim minutes, given that the podcast captures everything. “Seems to me we could always go back to our podcasts for specific items,” Dorrier said. He suggested the County could save money by switching to summary minutes, as opposed to paying $50,000 for near-verbatim minutes. Slutzky said he frequently uses the minutes to understand the decisions of former Supervisor David Bowerman and others who have held the Rio seat on the Board.
Boyd joked that Board members could reduce the cost by keeping their comments to a minimum.
The Board adopted a motion indicating continued support for near-verbatim minutes, as well as the allocation of up to $35,000 to pay for their timely posting within 60 days of each Board meeting. County Executive Bob Tucker will provide a more complete estimate of the costs to the Board at a future meeting.