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Some feel minutes don't capture enough discussion, others say less is better

As its name might suggest, the "consent agenda" portion of a City Council meeting rarely features much discussion or debate.

Yet during the Oct. 8 West Linn City Council meeting, a vote to approve the minutes from six meetings — from June 18 to Sept. 10 — was not unanimous. City Councilor Teri Cummings voted "no," and shared her reasoning with the council during a pre-meeting work session.

Cummings, who has long been outspoken about her concerns with how the City keeps written records of its meetings, said she could not vote to approve the package of meeting notes because she was unable to adequately fact-check them.

"There are 77 pages representing 25 hours of meetings," she said. "And it's all in one thing — there aren't individual minutes. So when you try to do one set of minutes, you have to keep track of what page you're on, because (they) aren't numerated.

"I'm not going to spend 25 hours listening to audio, so I hope we never have more than one set of minutes (combined) again."

According to City Recorder Kathy Mollusky, the minutes backup was due to a number of factors. Mollusky was on vacation from June 18 to July 5, which caused a delay during the summer. The council then pulled the approval of minutes from a subsequent agenda to allow Cummings to provide comments (Mollusky said she never did). And when the minutes were scheduled for approval Sept. 10, they were pulled at the request of City Manager Eileen Stein, who had changes of her own that she wanted to make.

Cummings said she takes her own notes during meetings, "just to have my own idea of the details that happened."

"And as I started to try to go back through these minutes, sometimes what I had written down didn't line up with what was in the minutes," she said. "I'm like, 'Did I write that down wrong, or what?' So I was having to spend a lot of time going from one screen to the next, getting on the video, trying to find where that was and stuff like that. And I was spending hours and hours."

City Councilors Bob Martin and Rich Sakelik also had some questions about the minutes, while Mayor Russ Axelrod captured his edits digitally (Cummings said she wasn't able to do edits on the computer). Near the end of the work session discussion, the council debated how well the minutes reflected a discussion about funding for a Citizen Advisory Group appreciation party.

"Some of the numbers and verbiage there weren't quite accurate, and there's no discussion of how we came to the agreement of $1,700 (in funding)," Sakelik said. "It's captured on video, but not here."

City Council President Brenda Perry felt that the minutes did not need to be so detailed.

"This is what troubles me about getting so detailed on this," she said. "Really I just feel that we (should) say we had a discussion on how much to use for this, various options were (discussed) and the council agreed to a final amount. That saves any inaccuracies."

Next week

At its next work session Nov. 5, the council will get its first glimpse of a new website and financial dashboard that will track the progress of general obligation (GO) bond projects. The dashboard will provide information about the various costs associated with each project.

The council will also revisit discussions about the future of the old city hall building and how it might be used.

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