Linn County meeting minutes to be printed in full, for now

Officials to explore cheaper, more efficient alternatives

Rick Smith
Published: February 18 2014 | 4:05 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:50 am in

CEDAR RAPIDS — Newspaper customers who enjoy reading the minutes of government meetings in the small print of newspaper legal notices will be treated to even more reading from the front lines of the Linn County Board of Supervisors.

For now.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, whose office takes the minutes of supervisor meetings, on Tuesday said his office will no longer condense its sometimes expansive meeting-minute narratives before they are published in The Gazette, Marion Times, Linn News-Letter and the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun.

Miller and the five-member Board of Supervisors went back and forth last week over the cost of publishing legal notices, with Supervisor Linda Langston arguing that the length of the board’s published meeting minutes could be reduced by 70 percent with the focus on board actions and not the back-and-forth of discussions.

In the last year or more, many of these back-and-forths have been between Miller and the board, and as official duties would have it, Miller and his staff take the minutes, not the supervisors.

In last week’s discussion between the supervisors and Miller, the supervisors expressed dismay when they learned that Miller’s staff sometimes condenses the meeting minutes after the supervisors approve them but before they are published.

Supervisors Ben Rogers and Langston wanted to know who decides what gets left out.

As a result, the majority of supervisors decided on Tuesday to agree with Miller and publish the full text of minutes that the supervisors approve without any subsequent reduction by Miller’s office before publication.

"I had already decided after listening to the arguments that my office will not be abbreviating board minutes in the immediate future," Miller said. "My decision … will remove any appearance of my office trying to make someone look good or bad."

Rogers said he favored the full narrative of the meeting minutes to run in the newspapers in the county until the supervisors figure out how to put the full-length minutes on the county’s website. Then a shorter version can go in the newspapers, he said.

Miller said the cost to publish Linn County meeting minutes — $92,122 in 2013, he has said — is apt to increase in the short term.

He said the added cost might provide an incentive to the supervisors to use the audio/video system in the county’s new boardroom to record the blow-by-blow of meetings for placement on the county’s website. Once the supervisors accomplish that, meeting minutes published in newspaper might be able to run in more brief form, Miller said.

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