Open Meeting Law
Meeting Types, Purpose and Noticing Requirements
Meeting Content
Conducting the Meeting
Meeting Minutes
Board Discussions and Decisions
Enforcing Meeting Conduct

Open Meeting Law

The Minnesota Open Meeting Law requires that governmental meetings be generally open to the public (MINN. STAT. 13D (2018)). A soil and water conservation district (SWCD) is a public body and as such, all meetings must generally be open to the public when required or permitted by law to transact public business in a meeting. The open meeting law serves three vital purposes:

  • Prohibits actions from being taken at a secret meeting where the interested public cannot be fully informed of the decisions of public bodies or detect improper influences.
  • Ensures the public’s right to be informed.
  • Gives the public an opportunity to present its views

Meeting Types, Purpose, and Noticing Requirements

Public notice generally must be provided for meetings of a public body subject to the open meeting law. The notice requirements depend on the type of meeting. However, if a person receives actual notice of a meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting, all notice requirements under the open meeting law are satisfied regardless of the method of receipt (MINN.STAT. 13D.04, subd. 7 (2018)).

Under open meeting law, anyone can file a written request for notification of meetings, which the board of supervisors must comply with. You should have a system to record and comply with the requests, as well as to document that you have fulfilled the requests. Annually, you may want to send out a verification that the requestor still wishes to receive notifications. Alternatively, the SWCD may establish an expiration date for a request notice, and annually send a notice to refile the request (MINN. STAT. 13D.04, subd. 2 (e) (2018)).

Regular Meetings

Each SWCD determines their schedules for meeting dates and times. Typically, these are held at regular intervals and adopted into the SWCD’s bylaws. The regular meetings are open to the public and used to conduct the SWCD’s business, usually on a monthly schedule. The SWCD must keep a schedule of its regular meetings on file at its primary office. The SWCD should annually review the meeting schedule and set an alternate meeting day for any regular meeting days that fall on a legal holiday during that year. If the SWCD decides to hold a meeting at a different time or place from that stated in its schedule of regular meetings, it generally must give the notice required for a special meeting. Typical agenda items may include new and old business, financial reports, review and approval of meeting minutes, review of various SWCD contracts, program and activity reports.

Special Meetings

A special meeting refers to any meeting at a time or place different from that stated in the SWCD board’s schedule of regular meetings. The board may transact any business within its powers at a special meeting if proper notice has been provided. Examples of a special meeting topic include approval of a time sensitive contract, personnel related decisions, or other topics of a time-sensitive nature.  All statutory provisions governing regular meetings, including the open meeting law (MINN. STAT. 13D.04 (2018)), apply to special meetings. See Table 3: Meeting Posting Requirements for more information on how to notice these meetings. Examples of special meetings include the following:

Emergency Meetings

An emergency meeting is a special meeting called by the board due to circumstances that, in its judgment, require immediate consideration. The procedure for notifying board supervisors of emergency meetings is the same as that for special meetings. The public notice requirements, however, are different. The board must make good-faith efforts to provide notice of the emergency meeting to all media that have filed a written request for notice. The notice must include the subject of the meeting. A published or posted notice is not necessary.

Annual Meeting

A board may choose to hold an annual meeting for the purpose of planning that year’s activity. This can be one of the regular scheduled meetings, or a special meeting, but is usually established in the SWCD’s bylaws. Typical agenda items may include review and adoption of local policies, review of the annual work plan and past accomplishments, review of bylaws or other governing procedures, election of officers or committee appointments or other activities that can be done on an annual basis, as opposed to regular monthly business. Open meeting law noticing requirements apply (MINN. STAT. 13D.04 (2018)).

Public hearings

A public hearing is a meeting where members of the public can express their opinions regarding a particular issue. The board is there to regulate the hearing and make sure that people who want to speak get an opportunity to do so. The board does not deliberate or discuss matters during the public-hearing portion of a meeting; instead, it listens to the public. A board may hold public hearings even when they are not legally required to do so. Generally, hearings of this type allow the public to comment on a specific issue. Such hearings can be helpful in raising concerns about an issue that the Board may not have considered. Public hearings may be held outside of a regular meeting date or time or as a part of a regular meeting. When a specific statute or rule provision requires the board to hold a public hearing, any specified notice requirements must be followed.


A board may decide to hold a workshop as a separate meeting, or as part of a regular meeting. Workshop topics vary but usually focus on strategic planning or in-depth review of topics. A board committee meeting is usually considered a workshop, as the members are typically working on developing a recommendation to the full board for consideration. Open meeting law notice requirements still apply to board workshops.

Adjourned Meetings

The terms “adjourned,” “continued,” and “recessed” are often used interchangeably when referring to meetings that are postponed to a future time for lack of a quorum, for convenience, or to complete pending business from a regular meeting. Although a quorum is necessary to conduct business, less than a quorum may adjourn or postpone a regularly organized meeting to a fixed, future time. When the board calls an adjourned meeting to complete pending business, the adjournment should be treated as a recess. If the date, time, and place of the adjourned, continued, or recessed meeting are announced at the previous meeting and the information is recorded in the meeting minutes, no additional public notice is necessary. Otherwise, the notice required for a special meeting is necessary.

Closed Meetings

The open meeting law is designed to favor public access. Therefore, the few exceptions that exist are carefully limited to avoid abuse. Before closing a meeting under any of the following exceptions, a board must make a statement, on the record, that includes the specific grounds to close the meeting and describes the subject to be discussed. All closed meetings (except those closed under the attorney-client privilege) must be electronically recorded. The same notice requirements that apply to open meetings also apply to closed meetings. For example, if a closed meeting takes place at a regular meeting, the notice requirements for a regular meeting apply. Likewise, if a closed meeting takes place as a special meeting or as an emergency meeting, the notice requirements for a special meeting or an emergency meeting would apply. See Table 2 for a list of typical subjects that a SWCD may close a meeting for.

Electronic Meetings

A meeting may be conducted by interactive television or other electronic means in compliance with the open meeting law if all four of the following requirements are met:

  • At least one board supervisor is physically present at the regular meeting location.
  • All board supervisors must be able to hear and see each other and all discussion and testimony presented at any location at which at least one Board supervisor is present.
  • All supervisors of the public at the regular meeting location must be able to hear and see all discussion, testimony, and votes of all board supervisors.
  • Each location at which a board supervisor is present must be open and accessible to the public.

If possible, a member of the public should be allowed to monitor the meeting electronically from a remote location. Caution should be taken if the SWCD begins to rely on electronic means for conducting business, as statute is not clear as to how to interpret many of the issues that may arise when conducting meetings in this manner.

Meeting Content

The SWCD’s bylaws should establish an order of business and a process for placing items on an agenda. For regular meetings, many SWCDs have found the following order of business convenient:

  • Call to order
  • Public Address to the board
  • Approval of meeting minutes
  • Consent agenda
  • Reports of officers, boards, and committees
  • Reports from staff and administrative officers
  • Unfinished business
  • New business
  • Resolutions or board actions to be taken
  • Miscellaneous announcements
  • Adjournment

Utilizing Consent Agendas

By resolution or through bylaws, a board may establish a consent agenda containing routine, non-controversial items that need little or no deliberation. The chair or the person responsible for placing items on the agenda prepares the consent agenda. By a majority or higher vote, the board can approve all actions on the consent agenda with one vote. This practice can help a board move routine items along more quickly so that there is time for discussing important issues. A board may consider items such as approval of meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, program reports or final approval of changes requested at a previous meeting.

It is the responsibility of each member to read and review consent agenda items and address any concerns prior to the meeting. If a board member objects to an item being placed on the consent agenda, it should be removed and acted on as a separate agenda item.

Board Packet and Printed Materials

Boards may find it useful to prepare a packet of information relative to the discussion and decisions to be made at the meeting. Generally, the SWCD staff will prepare the supporting information for the board to review based on the agenda topics.  Sending out the information 5-7 days in advance of the meeting gives the supervisors time to review and formulate questions to be discussed at the meeting to make the most informed decision possible.

Under open meeting law, at least one copy of all printed or prepared meeting materials that was available to the board members before or during the meeting must be available in the meeting room for inspection by the public during the meeting. A common best practice is to make the materials available on the SWCD website prior to the meeting.

Conducting the Meeting

SWCD bylaws usually cover issues like the place and time of regular board meetings, the order of business, parliamentary rules governing board procedures, minutes, and standing and special committees.

Rules of Order

Parliamentary procedure is a system of rules that aid in transacting meetings. The rules are designed to preserve order, expedite business, and protect the rights of those involved in making decisions. The chair, as presiding officer, is responsible for guarding against abuse of the procedures. The effective use of parliamentary procedures is the joint responsibility of the chair and all board supervisors. The rules of parliamentary procedure apply only if the board formally adopts such rules. Roberts Rules of Order (newly revised) is designed for meetings of large bodies. Rather than adopt these rules as a formal procedure to always follow, a board can agree to informally follow the rules while conducting meetings (League of Minnesota Cities, 2018).

Meeting Roles

Supervisors, as representatives of the people, are obligated to conduct the business of the SWCD in an orderly and business-like manner. Successful board meetings depend upon the direction given by the chair and upon the willingness of board supervisors to carry out their assignments as appointed.

Officer Roles

The board should define officer positions and their roles within the SWCD bylaws. Typical officer positions include the chair, vice-chair, treasurer, and secretary. For more information on roles and responsibility of each officer, see Chapter 2: SWCD Board of Supervisors.

Staff Roles

The board decides the level of staff involvement in the SWCD’s meeting. A typical staff role may be reporting on SWCD activities in relation to their position, providing feedback on discussions as requested or providing documentation to the board.

Public Roles

Members of the public are invited to attend any open meetings. Many boards allow a public comment period on their regular meeting agendas. The board may limit the amount of time for individual comments, but suitable time should be allowed to allow members of the public to express their opinions on relevant topics.  

Meeting Minutes

Minutes are an official record of actions the board or committee took at a meeting, not a record of everything that was said. They serve a historical purpose, but just as important, they serve a legal purpose, documenting the group’s adherence to the proper procedures and the SWCD’s bylaws. Board minutes and recordings are part of the legal public record and may be viewed by members of the public or during litigation.

Since minutes are public documents that members may ask to review, be clear on what to exclude. Avoid direct quotations; even without a name, the speaker may be identifiable. Don’t report details of discussions, especially who said what. When items not on the agenda are discussed, note simply that “time was provided for supervisors to discuss items not on the agenda.” And remember that minutes are not the place for future action items or to-do lists.

Finally, once the minutes are approved, destroy any notes and audio or video recordings of the meeting, with the exception of records made during closed meetings (See Table 2: Closed Meeting Subjects, Purposes, and Noticing Requirements for SWCDs). The final approved minutes should be the only record of the meeting that you distribute and keep.  (American Society of Association Executives, 2017)

Contents of the Meeting Minutes

The minutes of an organization should contain a record of what is done and not what is said. The Minnesota Office of the State Auditor (OSA) (State of MN Office of State Auditor, 2012) states that minutes should contain, at a minimum:

  • the subject matter of a motion;
  • the persons making and seconding a motion;
  • the roll call vote on a motion;
  • the character of resolutions or ordinances offered, including a brief description of their subject matter; and
  • whether the motion to approve a resolution or ordinance was defeated or adopted.

Similarly, open meeting law requires that minutes include the individual votes of each member of the governing body on any action, including each appropriation of money other than “payments of judgments, claims, and amounts fixed by statute.” Beyond these statutory requirements, the decision regarding how elaborate or extensive the minutes should be is within a board’s discretion.

The OSA also recommends that meeting minutes include the following information in addition to the statutory minimum requirements:

  • type of meeting (regular, special, adjourned regular, adjourned special, recessed, or emergency)
  • type of group that is meeting (i.e., the governing body or a committee)
  • date and place the meeting was held
  • the time the meeting was called to order
  • approval of minutes of the previous meeting, with any corrections noted
  • identity of parties to whom contracts were awarded
  • abstentions from voting due to a conflict and the member’s name and reason for abstention
  • reasons the governing body awarded a particular contract to a bidder other than the lowest bidder
  • approval of hourly rates paid for services provided, mileage rates, meal reimbursement amounts, and per diem amounts
  • a listing of all bills (including per diems) allowed or approved for payment, noting the recipient, purpose and amount
  • a list of all transfers of funds
  • appointments of representatives to committees or outside organizations
  • reports of the officers
  • time the meeting concluded.



Meeting minutes should be approved by the board, usually at the next meeting. The minutes should be signed and dated by a designated member of the board to indicate that they are the official meeting minutes, usually the secretary or chair. The approved minutes are the official record of the proceeding. Once the board has formally approved the minutes of any meeting, they should not be changed under any circumstance. The board can dispense with the reading of the minutes if all supervisors have received them prior to the meeting or include approval in the consent agenda.


If the board finds a mistake in the minutes of the previous meeting, the Secretary should correct the minutes. If the secretary declines, the board can order the change by motion and a vote. The secretary must then make the change and show in the minutes that the change was made by order of the board.

Record of Minutes

The SWCD board shall keep a full and accurate record of all proceedings, decisions, resolutions, and orders issued or adopted (MINN. STAT. 103C.325 (2018)). The board must keep a record of approved minutes. The records should be kept in a format and quality that will ensure permanent records. Because minutes would likely be considered official papers of the SWCD, they should be signed by the secretary. Minute books are public records and must be available for public view at any reasonable time.

Board Discussions and Decisions

The Board has options for providing direction to its staff on how to carry out its business. A board may choose to come to decisions by consensus or give its staff general direction without formal motions or resolutions. Some business, such as entering into grant agreements, cost share contracts, or adopting operating procedures, is required to have board approval through motion or resolution. Refer to Table 3 for a list of common SWCD business decisions requiring discussions, motions or resolutions.

Principle Motions

A motion is a matter of parliamentary procedure. Motions generally are made orally and may introduce decisions or resolutions, amend them, and take any other action. Refer to Table 4 for a common list of motions and the rules for using them.


A resolution is essentially a formal, written expression of an approved motion. Boards should use resolutions for any action of a temporary, routine, or administrative nature. A resolution must be used when required by law.

If the Board has any doubt whether a motion or a resolution is necessary to take a particular action, it is generally best to proceed as if the action requires a resolution. In its traditional form, a resolution begins with a “whereas” clause or clauses explaining the reason for the action, followed by the substance of the resolution beginning with “Therefore, be it resolved” or some similar phrase.

Voting Procedures

The board may adopt parliamentary procedures or different voting procedures through its bylaws. However, an SWCD board is allowed to have informal discussion and decision making to give direction to its staff. In some cases, a Board is required to follow its adopted procedures to conduct some business, such as entering binding agreements.  Table 4 contains a list of common motions and voting procedures.


A board can form committees for any purpose they see fit. Most often committees are used when the board feels more review or involvement from members is needed than what can be obtained at a regular meeting. Committee members are nominated by members and appointed by the chair.

Generally, committees are structured to provide recommendations to the full board for consideration, but other authorities can be granted. Specific duties of the committee and any delegated authorities are voted on by the board. Table 1 is list of common committees of an SWCD board and the typical duties.

Table 1: Common Committees of an SWCD Board


Typical Duties/Actions

Suggested Members

  • Develop an annual budget, review financial statements from the previous years, set short and long-term financial goals or make recommendations for policy to the board.
  • Chair
  • Treasurer
  • Qualified Staff
  • Provide guidance, oversight and support to the SWCD manager as it develops and implements employee staffing, performance reviews and compensation policies. The personnel committee should act in accordance with the SWCD’s personnel policy and recommend amendments to the policies as needed.
  • Chair
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • SWCD Manager
  • Review and draft policies as needed to define SWCD conduct and activities.
  • Annually review existing policies and recommend amendments.
  • Review changes in statute or policy that affect the SWCD and make recommendations to the board
  • Chair
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • SWCD Manager
Equipment and Services
  • Annual review needed equipment purchases or upgrades, develop budgets and estimates for committee or board review.
  • Review SWCD services provided to the public, make recommendations to the board on adjustments.
  • Chair
  • Treasurer
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • Qualified Staff
Public Relations / Social Media
  • Make recommendations for the SWCDs plan to promote public participation
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • Qualified Staff
Strategic Planning
  • Short/long term planning of SWCD goals and vision
  • Evaluate progress towards adopted plans
  • Chair
  • SWCD Manager
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • Qualified Staff
Issue Specific
  • A board may decide to develop a temporary committee to work on a particular decision issue.
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • Qualified Staff
  • Member of the public
Advisory Committee
  • An advisory committee may be appointed by the Board for any reason: general planning and strategy, project specific, etc. SWCDs are not required by statute to have a formal advisory committee.
  • Qualified Supervisor(s)
  • Qualified Staff
  • Member of the public


















Enforcing Meeting Conduct

It is the role of the chair to ensure that board meetings are run efficiently. Part of those duties may be to enforce meeting rules and ensure proper conduct of the members, staff and/or public. Additionally, those rules and enforcement procedures may extend to the conduct of those individuals outside of a meeting, while performing their job or public duties.

Board Conduct and Enforcement

A board may choose to adopt a policy to guide conduct of individual supervisors in relation to meeting conduct, interactions with the general public, or involvement with its staff. In order to enforce these policies, a board may choose to adopt actions in its bylaws, which may include reprimands, censures, or other actions. SWCD supervisors are elected officials. As such, they cannot be removed except in the case of documented malfeasance.

Open Meeting Law Penalties

Board supervisors are subject to MINN. STAT. 13D.06 (2018) which states the penalties for violations of open meeting law. In summary of the statute, a supervisor found guilty of open meeting law violations can be held personally liable and subject to a fine in an amount not to exceed $300 for a single occurrence, which may not be paid by the SWCD. If the same supervisor is found guilty in three or more actions related to SWCD business, they forfeit their right to serve on the board for an equal time of the term elected. In addition, a court may award court fees up to a stipulated amount for legal costs incurred to any party, depending on the findings of the case.

Table 2: Closed Meeting Subjects, Purposes, and Noticing Requirements for SWCDs

Subject Matter


Noticing / Recording Requirements

Special Considerations

Misconduct Allegations or Charges

A public body must close one or more meetings for “preliminary consideration” of allegations or charges of misconduct against an individual subject to its authority.

  • Must be electronically recorded; record kept for at least 3 years. Record is “private personnel data” and is accessible to the subject of the data but not to the public.

This type of meeting must be open at the request of the individual who is the subject of the meeting. If the public body concludes discipline of any nature may be warranted, further meetings or hearings relating to the specific charges or allegations that are held after that conclusion is reached must be open.

Performance Evaluations

A public body may close a meeting to evaluate the performance of an individual who is subject to its authority. The public body must identify the individual to be evaluated before closing the meeting.

  • If this type of meeting is closed, it must be electronically recorded, and the recording must be preserved for at least three years after the meeting.
  • At its next open meeting, the public body must summarize its conclusions regarding the evaluation.

This type of meeting must be open at the request of the individual who is the subject of the meeting.

Attorney-client Privilege

A meeting may be closed if permitted by the attorney-client privilege.

No requirements.

Meetings between a government body and its attorney to discuss active or threatened litigation may only be closed, under the attorney-client privilege, when a balancing of the purposes served by the attorney-client privilege against those served by the open meeting law dictates the need for absolute confidentiality.

Purchase or Sale of Real or Personal Property

A public body may close a meeting to:

  • Determine the asking price for real or personal property to be sold by the public body.
  • Review confidential or protected nonpublic appraisal data.
  • Develop or consider offers or counteroffers for the purchase or sale of real or personal property.
  • Must be tape-recorded.
  • Must be preserved for 8 years and must be made available to the public only after all transactions discussed are finalized or abandoned.
  • A list of members and all other persons present at the closed meeting must be made available to the public after the closed meeting.

Before holding a closed meeting under this exception, the public body must identify on the record the particular real or personal property that is the subject of the closed meeting. The actual purchase or sale of the real or personal property must be approved at an open meeting, and the purchase or sale price is public data.


Table 3: Meeting Posting Requirements

Meeting Type

Statute Reference

Posting Deadlines

Posting Requirement

Regular Meeting

13D.04 Sub 1


Kept on file at its primary office.


If holding a regular meeting at a time or place different from the time or place stated in its schedule of regular meetings, it shall give the same notice of the meeting that is for a special meeting.

Special Meeting

13D.04 Sub 2. (b)

This notice shall be posted and mailed or delivered at least 3 days prior to the meeting.


Publish notice once, at least 3 days prior, in the newspaper of the public body or newspaper in the general circulation.

Post written notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of the meeting on the principal bulletin board of the public body, or if the public body has no principal bulletin board, on the door of its usual meeting room. Notice mailed or delivered to those who have filed a written request for notice of special meetings

Emergency Meeting

13D.04 Sub 3a., 3b

Given by telephone or by any other method used to notify the members of the public body as soon as reasonably practicable after notice to the members.

Good faith effort to provide notice of the meeting to each news medium that has filed a written request for notice if the request includes the news medium's telephone number.

Annual Meeting


Same as regular or special meeting as scheduled.

Public Hearing

Statute Dependent

When holding a public hearing, notice requirements may be different under the applicable statute for that hearing. Reference applicable statute when scheduling public hearings.



Same as regular or special meeting as scheduled.

See statute for additional requirements and exclusions for noticing meetings.


American Society of Association Executives. (2017). Do’s and Don’ts for Meeting Minutes. Washington, DC, USA.

Hinz, L. (2018). Planning and effective meeting agenda. Retrieved from Univeristy of MN Extension:

League of Minnesota Cities. (2018, September 13). League of MN Cities Handbook for Minnesota Cities Meetings, Motion Resolutions and Ordinances. League of MN Cities. Retrieved from

State of MN Office of State Auditor. (2012, July). Retrieved from Minnesota Office of the State Auditor: