When I joined my condo board, I absolutely refused to be the secretary because I knew taking the minutes would be a pain. I became the president instead. During my term of office, we had recording secretaries of variable quality ranging from excellent to inadequate. One secretary took copious hand-written notes but never managed to get them typed until months after the meeting had taken place. Another resigned from the board suddenly, leaving minutes unfinished and several others needing extensive revision. Two secretaries were stellar and produced outstanding minutes but never (and I could be forgetting a time or two) provided the minutes for review until a few days before the next meeting or at the meeting. This left a few days or no days to review before the next meeting.

This meant that we had to take time at the beginning of the meeting to go over our minutes. Lively but unnecessary debates ensued over the content. If I could have reviewed them sooner, I would have remembered better what we had agreed in our meeting a month earlier. One property manager lamented to me many times that he needed the minutes to know what he was supposed to do. He eventually gave up waiting and took his own notes. This created a second problem because sometimes his notes did not agree with the “official” records – an error that would have been avoided altogether if the minutes had been available sooner.

Annual General Meeting minutes are even worse.

Even though many boards engage a professional to take the notes, they are still not available for review immediately. The owners – who approve these minutes – often do not see them until just before the next AGM – normally a full year later. We must think people have photographic memories and will be able to remember exactly what was said. I remember one AGM where an owner tried to change the “official” record to reflect her memory of the situation. She wanted to change the minutes to suit her own interest; get out of paying a significant penalty.

I love meetings but I never liked the madness that creeps in while trying to get the minutes reviewed and approved. Attending my condo board meetings was a highlight of the month. My condo board meetings were always very lively affairs. Debate, discussion, and decisions filled each meeting to the max. As soon as it came to time to review the minutes, the madness arrived and the process became rather painful. It never ceases to amaze me that we give such little attention to the most important document of our corporation. Minutes always seemed to be such a bother to review and approve. Directors from all kinds of boards tell me the same story.

Why such a problem?

Board after board fails to recognize the value of their records until it is too late. Boards live or die by their records especially the minutes. Without good minutes the condominium can’t function. Am I exaggerating – perhaps a tiny bit – but minutes are very valuable documents and form a legal record of the corporation. Minutes that are missing, poorly written, or inaccurate do not serve the needs of the owners.

One board learned a valuable lesson the hard way. An error in their minutes remained even after review by 10 directors. These minutes later became a key piece of evidence presented in a court case.

 “…. the Judge enforced the law which says that the Minutes are the legal voice of the organization. It cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars – a very expensive lesson. Looking back, none of us could believe that we had let such a glaring mistake get past us” Dr. Randal Dick , One Accord Non-Profit

This board will never make the same mistake again. Are you convinced of the value of your minutes? Also critical is to consider who takes the minutes. This person is the recording secretary. I’m sure that this is the least popular position on every board.

In reality, the recording secretary is the most important position on every board because it won’t matter very much about the thoughtful decisions made by the board if no one is there to record and store this decision where it can be viewed when necessary.

This approach has to change

The next time I’m on a board, I will gently but firmly suggest;

  1. Committ to excellence in record keeping
  2. Take a minutes first approach
  3. Get agreement from the recording secretary to provide draft minutes within 48 hours after each meeting and from directors to review and respond with any comments 48 hours after receiving draft minutes

With these principals in mind, I am positive that boards can eliminate minute madness and instead learn to love their minutes.