Antioch City Clerk Householder explains delay in timely posting of council meeting minutes

Screenshot of Antioch City Council Agendas and Minutes page on the city’s website as of Wednesday morning, March 23, 2022. Source: Mark Jordan

Contracts with Meeting Minutes Clerk, council not approving them, special meetings

“My office cannot produce what we do not have in our possession” – Householder

Annotated minutes and video are posted within 24-48 hours after meeting

Former City Clerk Simonsen wanted full-time position, quicker type of minutes; says “no legal time limit for approving minutes of a meeting.”

By Allen D. Payton

Complaints have been made to Antioch City Clerk Ellie Householder, who is facing possible recall, for not posting the city council meeting minutes on the city’s website in a timely manner. She and former City Clerk Arne Simonsen say they are typed up by the city’s contracted Meeting Minutes Clerk, which has been the process for at least 20 years. The delay is due to too many special council meetings and the council not approving past meeting minutes.

Householder did point out that the Annotated Minutes of the council meetings are posted on the city’s website within 24-48 hours. But they only show the votes by the council members on each agenda item and aren’t posted on the City Council Agendas and Minutes page of the city’s website. Instead, they’re posted below the video of that meeting on a different page, which she pointed out also posted within 24-48 hours, as well. But that requires clicking on the video link for that council meeting on the City Council Agendas and Minutes page and watching the meeting in order to know what the council members said and did. Or clicking on the date of that meeting on the City Council Meetings page of the website where the agendas and minutes aren’t posted.

The following email message and questions were sent to Householder and Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia on Friday, March 18: “As of today, the minutes for the Antioch City Council meetings from 1/25 through 3/11/22 are not yet posted on the city’s website. The minutes for the meetings of Jan. 25, Feb. 4, 8, and 22 were all on the March 8 meeting agenda. Why weren’t they approved then and are again on next Tuesday’s meeting agenda along with the March 8 and 11 meeting minutes?”

In addition, they were asked, “what is the process for the minutes once they’ve been approved by the council to be uploaded to the website? Can’t you upload the Annotated Minutes until they’re approved? And then replace those with the approved minutes once they have been?”

Householder responded, “Our office contracts with a Meeting Minutes Clerk to provide summary minutes for each Council Meeting. When she completes her task and provides our office with the ‘draft’ Meeting Minutes, they are then placed onto the Council Meeting Agenda for Council to approve.  Once approved by Council, the Meeting Minutes are then uploaded onto our City’s Website.

“My office cannot produce what we do not have in our possession,” she continued. “And as you know, Meeting Minutes are approved by Council.”

“The reason for the one-page staff report is merely requesting Council to ‘Continue’ the Meeting Minutes to a future Council Meeting.  This means we have not received the ‘draft’ Meeting Minutes from our Minutes Clerk,” Householder added. “The Council Meeting video is posted onto our City’s Website within 24 hours of each Council Meeting though.”

Garcia pointed out the special meetings the council has been holding as one reason for the delay in receiving the minutes back from the Meeting Minutes Clerk.

Screenshot of Antioch City Council meeting video and Annotated Minutes page on city’s website. Source: City Clerk Ellie Householder

Additional Questions for Householder Go Unanswered

Additional questions were then sent Monday afternoon March 21 to Householder, copying Garcia, asking, “how long has the city clerk’s office been contracting out the minutes? Why can’t you or the Deputy Clerk handle that responsibility? If it’s taking the outside contractor too long to provide the minutes in a timely manner, have you considered bringing that responsibility back in house or contracting with someone else to get them done in time for the next council meeting? Is there a legal time limit within which the clerk’s office is supposed to have the draft minutes prepared for the city council to adopt?”

But no response was received as of Wednesday, March 23.

Former City Clerk Simonsen Wanted Quicker Type of Minutes and Full-Time City Clerk

Similar questions were also sent to former City Clerk Arne Simonsen, as well.

He responded, “The City Clerk’s Office has contracted a Minutes Clerk for over the past 20+ years. Not just for the City Council meetings, but also the Planning Commission, Police Commission and the Sales Tax Citizens Oversight Committee. Most cities contract for a Minutes Clerk, unless the Council has approved what are known as ‘Action Minutes’. I tried to get Antioch to use ‘Action Minutes’ which are simple to produce and look similar to the ‘Annotated Minutes’ that I used to produce and post the next day to the City Website.”

“The logic of using Action Minutes is that the DVD of a meeting would be preserved and considered the actual full minutes of a meeting,” Simonsen explained. “Summary Minutes, which Antioch uses take much longer to produce and contain names and comments made not only by council members, but also by the public. And we all know how some in the public like to see their names in those minutes.”

“There is no legal time limit for approving minutes of a meeting. When you have a Council meeting every two weeks, plus throw in any Special Meetings in between, it does take some time,” he pointed out. “Kitty Eiden does a great job with the minutes, and I have absolutely no complaints.  If a Council only met once a month, getting the minutes of the previous meeting on the next agenda would be easy. But every two weeks (and sometimes three a month, plus Special meeting) it does take longer.”

“Would you trust Householder doing the minutes?” Simonsen asked. “The full time Deputy City Clerk has her hands full running all the many other functions of the Clerk’s Office. I tried to get the City Clerk to be full time, as it was from 1872 up until 2010, but my staff reports were turned down every time and never made the agenda.”

“When Kitty was on vacation and the Planning Commission needed a Clerk for the meeting and to produce the minutes, I stepped in to do it and did not receive any extra compensation for doing it,” he added. “Since I had been a Russian linguist for 24 years in the Navy, I routinely transcribed intercepted communications, so taking minutes for me was easy.”

Asked if he remembered ever being five meetings behind when he was city clerk, Simonsen responded, “Only when we had a meeting every week for five weeks in a row.”

the attachments to this post:

Screenshot of ACC mtg video & Annotated Minutes pg

ACC Agendas & Minutes as of 032322

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