Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can a council member abstain from voting without disclosing the
reason? Is the abstention counted as a yea or nay?
It depends. State law does not require village or city council members
to declare the reason for an abstention. However, many home rule city
and village charters require the council member to do so, and the Charter
Township Act (MCL 42.7) requires members of the township board to receive
the unanimous approval of the other members of the board to abstain.
An abstention is neither a yea or nay vote, and therefore, not counted.
It upholds the will of the majority. If the member does not leave the
council chamber, they are included in the quorum count.
How does one go about making changes to minutes that were approved
several months ago?
According to Roberts Rules of Order, if the existence of
an error or material omission in the minutes becomes reasonably established
after their approval even many years later the minutes can
then be corrected by means of a motion to Amend Something Previously
Adopted, which requires a two-thirds vote, or a majority vote with
notice, or the vote of a majority of the entire membership, or unanimous
What is the difference between a public hearing and a special
A public hearing is that portion of a meeting designed
specifically to receive input from the public on a single issue. It may
be required by ordinance or statute. The time, place and subject of the
hearing must be posted as required by the ordinance or statute and only
the posted subject can be discussed. The hearing may be before, during
or after a regular meeting or may be at a special meeting called specifically
for that purpose.
A special meeting is any meeting of the governing body other than
those called for by the charter. It may be a meeting of the full body
or of just a subcommittee. Your charter will outline the process for calling
a special meeting and the Open Meetings Act requires the date, time and
place of the meeting be posted at least 18 hours before the meeting.
Can tapes of council meetings be disposed of as soon as minutes
are transcribed and approved?
Tapes of meetings (for whatever purpose) fall under the definition
of a public record and cannot be disposed of unless there is an approved
disposal schedule. If your city or village has adopted Schedule 8, an
MML publication, Records
Management for Michigan Municipalities : A Suggested Retention and Disposal
Schedule (Now available
online!), the tapes may be disposed of when minutes
have been approved. If you want to dispose of them under a different schedule,
contact the Archives Section of MI Department of State (517-373-1400)
for forms and instructions on submitting an alternate disposal schedule
or access their web site for records management information for local
governments at www.sos.state.mi.us/history/archive/local.
Can the council discuss an item not on the agenda?
There is no law prohibiting discussion of an item not on the
agenda. The Open Meetings Act (1976 PA 267, MCL 15.264 and MCL 15.265)
outlines the time required for proper notice of regular and special meetings.
Although it specifies that the name, address and telephone number of the
public body be included in the notice, it does not require a listing of
specific items to be discussed. However, a number of cities and villages,
either through their charter or their council rules, have agreed that
items not on the agenda may not be considered by the council. Some permit
the agenda to be amended during the meeting. Your city clerk and/or your
city attorney will be able to guide you as to your requirements.
How long can the public speak during the public comment portion
of a council meeting?
It is up to the council to determine the policy. Some communities
limit each person to two minutes, in other communities the limit is five
minutes. Some municipalities set aside a total of 15 minutes for proponents,
and 15 minutes for opponents on a specific issue. One community even sets
a timer, and when it goes off, the citizen must quit speaking. The length
of time for public commentary should be established in your council rules.
We have sample council rules in our resource center, as well as on the
Is there a requirement of how long a public hearing has to be
kept open? We often hold a public hearing during the regular council meeting.
If no one appears to speak at the scheduled time, how long must we wait
before proceeding with the remainder of our agenda?
Unless you have something established in your council rules or
charter, we know of nothing in state law that sets a specific amount of
time. Normally the mayor gavels the public hearing open and asks if there
is anyone who wishes to speak. If no one does, the hearing is declared
closed. Public hearings are often held during council meetings. You do
need to make sure the hearing is open at the time advertised. Again, you
need to check your charter and any rules the council may have adopted.
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