Government meetings held without recording equipment might become a relic of yesteryear.
Public meetings government boards could soon be required to record all discussions and transcribe minutes. Recording meetings are now an option for government bodies, but written minutes are considered the official record.
The new requirement for recording meetings was approved by the Government Operations Interim Committee this past week. Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, the bill's sponsor, said that his main intent was to ensure that people feel like they have somewhere to turn if they dispute the written minutes the digested, official record of a meeting and to ease concerns about possible behind-the-scene shenanigans.
"There's a public perception that because there is only written minutes, we as a body can go in the back room and change those minutes," he said. "We want to change that perception."
A similar bill was proposed last year by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, but failed in the Senate because of concerns that the requirement was too burdensome, especially for small cities or special districts. Donnelson said requiring recording will not overwhelm the staff or budgets of any government entity, noting that a recorder costs $12.50 and is easy to operate.
Lincoln Shurtz, legislative analyst for the Utah League of Cities of Towns, said that their primary concern was making sure that there was an official record, whether it be the written or recorded minutes, for
cities involved in lawsuits.
"We want to make sure the minutes are accurate," Shurtz said. "But we need to have some finality for what is the final record, which has always been the written record."The committee actually approved four bills relating to open meetings and election laws last week, all of which will now be drafted, numbered and most likely considered early in next year's general session:
- Anybody who illegally closes a meeting to the public could face a class B misdemeanor.
- All government bodies wanting electronic meetings, such as a member attending over a phone or video connection, would have to pass ordinances outlining rules for such meetings.
- Agenda item descriptions would have to be specific enough so the public understands what will be discussed.
- Early voting may be allowed during the two weeks prior to Election Day, although it would impact registrations for write-in candidates and voters, who would have to file 30 days before Election Day.
- Anyone who provides incorrect identification at the polling place could face a class B misdemeanor.