Many minutes spent on meeting minutes

So what’s the Clark County council’s deal with approving meeting minutes?

They’re usually the most mundane and quickly approved part of any public meeting, at least in my previous experience. But for some reason, the councilors spent a half hour at their Aug. 4 meeting talking about a couple small errors in a previous meeting’s minutes, and yet another half hour Wednesday talking about the best way to write minutes.

To attempt to condense a laborious conversation, Madore asked Wednesday that the county produce “action minutes,” citing the Jurassic Parliament workshop he and other members of the C-Tran board attended recently. Essentially, Madore wanted to cut out all summaries of conversation, instead condensing minutes to only include when meetings start and end, who was present, what motions were made and whether they passed. That would “respect” and “simplify” staff time, he said.

Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Tom Mielke weren’t biting, however. Stewart said she was satisfied with how minutes are presented, and Mielke said he wanted the meeting minutes to be verbatim, suggesting that the county put recordings of the meetings in front of a computer equipped with transcription software such as Dragon. Mielke apparently uses Dragon at home, which, given recent emails he’s sent to state legislators, is a beautiful image.

Long story short, the conversation went nowhere. Wah-wah.

The person this issue affects the most is administrative assistant Jennifer Clark. And yes, that is her real name. Clark is sort of the catch-all in the Clark County council’s sixth floor office. In addition to putting together the meeting minutes every week, she’s also answering incessant phone calls, playing host to visitors of the office and otherwise facing frequent interruptions. I know this because I’m often interrupting her with my calls and visits.

That means for a three-hour meeting, it can take up to ten hours to type the meeting minutes, she once told me.

“She has to play a section, listen to it, maybe rewind, re-listen to it to make sure she gets the full meaning,” Acting County Manager Mark McCauley said Wednesday.

This issue has come up multiple times. During The Great Office Space Debacle of 2015, Madore asked that a memo be added to reflect a thought he had following the meeting where they discussed an office remodel. That would, of course, be inappropriate for a document that’s supposed to reflect what happened inside the meeting.

Clark has asked Madore and the other councilors multiple times to bring any concerns they may have about the minutes to her prior to the meeting in which they’ll be discussed—y’know, so her work isn’t questioned in a public forum. But it looks like the Aug. 4 incident may have been the last straw. Check out this excerpt from a biting email Clark sent on Aug. 7 to Madore.

“I do take pride in my work,” Clark said. “Being here 12 years, I have seen many changes within our office and our work and happy to assist in any changes moving forward.  At the end of the day though, I am responsible for my work and/or what I feel is ethically right in relation to my work.  On Tuesday, you mentioned ‘numerous’ changes and that my work was ‘inaccurate’ and had a discussion about it in a public venue for over 30 minutes.  That is demoralizing and I feel defamation of my character and could affect my future job opportunities especially with it not being true. As I have done in the past, I respectfully ask again if you need me to make any changes to my work, to please come see and/or Mark ahead of time versus in a public venue especially since you receive it ahead of time for review.”

You go, girl.

Kaitlin Gillespie

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at or 360-735-4517.

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