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Minute Clerks: Don't Leave!

Minute Clerks: Don't Leave!

Why it's important for the clerk to remain at board meetings through executive session.

One of my colleagues recently brought to my attention what appears to be a common practice at more than a handful of school districts: allowing the minute clerk to go home when the board enters into executive session at a board meeting. Although minutes are required to be taken in executive session, the task can be performed by any person lawfully in executive session, so the minute clerk’s presence is therefore not mandated (that topic is covered by an Attorney General Opinion from 1997).

Relieving the clerk of his/her official duties is usually either done as a kindness, so that the clerk isn’t stuck waiting for a long executive session to end, or to avoid a potential overtime situation. No matter how benevolent or practical the reason may be, it has the potential to be problematic if no one finishes the minute-taking at that meeting when the board returns to open session or if someone does the job who isn’t legally authorized to act in such a capacity.

Oklahoma law requires school boards to employ a minute clerk to “keep an accurate journal of the proceedings of the board of education and perform such other duties as the board of education or its committees may require.” A deputy minute clerk may be designated by the board, and the deputy clerk is granted the same powers and duties as the clerk. Both of these positions are required to be bonded for not less than $1,000. 

The statute allows the encumbrance clerk to serve as the minute clerk. However, it specifies that the minute clerk or deputy minute clerk cannot be a board member, superintendent, principal, assistant principal, instructor or teacher in the district. Unless there’s a deputy minute clerk present to take over when the board returns to open session after the clerk has been dismissed, the district is likely to find itself in violation of the statute. This is something boards will want to consider carefully to ensure they do not find themselves in a situation where there is actual or perceived impropriety.

Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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