Why does a governing body
need a meeting procedure?
The practical reasons for having
a meeting procedure in place is that it eliminates chaos and
lessens the possibility that the decision making process will
be unreliable (arbitrary and capricious).
There are also legal requirements
that must be met in the meeting process that an established
procedure helps to ensure. These are:
- Hold regular meetings on
an established schedule (usually monthly);
- Establish a quorum and take
aciton by majority vote;
- Vote on every question unless
- Declare a conflict of interest
- Maintain a journal of official
- Provide reasonable opportunity
for the public to be heard;
- Hear and evaluate public
Generally, the preferred practice
is "Robert's Rules of Order" or "Parliamentary Procedure." These
can sometimes be confusing because of the specialized language
used to describe the process and the level of detail presented.
Generally, small local governments can conduct business by
incorporating only a limited part of these in their official
procedure and incorporating the rest of the process by reference.
We have included some of the most common terms and simplified sample
guidelines for conducting a meeting, from making
a motion to voting.
Generally, brainstorming and
work sessions are less formal than a regular meeting or public
What are the minimum mandatory
requirements of a local government for conducting meetings?
Under state law
AS 29.20.160, a
- hold a regular monthly meeting,
unless otherwise provided by ordinance;
- provide reasonable notice
and opportunity to be heard (AS 44.62.310-312; see
Current Alaska Statutes).
- establish a quorum;
- take action by majority vote
of the governing body; and
- keep a journal of official
Who enforces the rules?
law, a local governing body elects a presiding
officer and a deputy presiding officer from among its members.
In a borough that has adopted the manager form of government
and in cities, the mayor is the presiding officer. Under AS
29.20.380(10), the clerk acts as "parliamentary
Essentially, the presiding officer
enforces the rules by following them when conducting a
meeting and, when there is a question of procedure, the
research the question and propose a resolution, which the
presiding officer rules on. Members of the public also
the rules by questioning whenever something occurs that
seem to follow the rules. The last resort for enforcement
is a lawsuit.
Department of Community and
Economic Development (Commerce) Local
Government Specialists provide
training on conducting effective meetings and are available
to answer questions of procedure. The Alaska
Municipal League (AML) also provides training.
What are the duties of the "Meeting Chair" or "Presiding Officer" at
a public meeting?
The duties of the meeting chair
are to organize and handle any pre-meeting needs, direct the
flow of the meeting, ensure order, and ensure follow-up.
Before the meeting the
presiding officer should ensure that:
- The agenda is prepared.
- Adequate public notice
has been done.
- Meeting packets have been
delivered to members of the policy making body ahead of
time so they are informed of the issues and ready to conduct
- The meeting place is suitable
and prepared for the meeting.
- Meeting materials are available
(writing materials, document copies, etc).
During the meeting the
presiding officer should ensure that:
- He/she knows the rules
and follows them.
- He/she keeps control of
the meeting and establishes order when others stray from
- Either a clear decision
is made on an issue or it is officially set aside for
- Action items are clearly
- Assignments are made for
doing the action items.
- There is an official written
record of the meeting being prepared.
An important point to keep in
mind is that it is not the responsibility of the presiding
officer to make the decision and use the meeting to inform
the participants of the decision. All members of the body
need to be involved in the decision-making process.
What are the duties of the
governing body at a public meeting?
- Know the rules.
- Attend the meeting and be
prepared to conduct business when you get there.
- Read through any materials
provided in the meeting packet before the meeting.
- Participate in debate.
- Be respectful of other members
and the chair.
What are some suggestions
for ensuring decisions made at the meeting are followed up?
Create an action/implementation
plan and assign responsibility. The best run meeting is not
of much use if there is no implementation.
See the additional information
on Open Meetings Act,
Executive Session, and Conflict of Interest.