Missing council minutes becomes a priority for interim clerk to fix
Since 2017, 12 meetings or official Village gatherings of the Key Biscayne Village Council have taken place with no official minutes being transcribed.
Last week, the council decided to rectify the oversight.
The move to fix the problem with the council's public record was initiated by council member Katie Petros and supported by council member Ignacio Segurola. This prompted the council to vote to have interim village clerk Peter Kulpa complete the task of creating minutes from archived meeting video.
“It’s basically writing a summary of what went on, not a verbatim transcript, so it’s really not that hard to do,’’ Kulpa said, adding that he expects to easily complete the minutes from the 12 meetings within the time allotted.
The missing minutes include two meetings from 2017, three in 2018, and seven in 2019, for a total of 37 hours of videotape. Staff calculated transcriptions require two hours for every hour of tape for about 75 hours total needed.
In an email statement to Islander News, Petros moved to clarify Islander News print edition, which stated the missing minutes “... cover 2 previous clerks, Jennifer Medina and interim clerk Conchita Alvarez.”
Petros wrote - “All of the missing minutes are from meetings when Jennifer Medina was our Village clerk. All the minutes that Conchita was responsible for were handled before she left office the first time and she is currently still helping Peter and the minutes she was responsible for as interim have been handled in a timely way.”
Petros provided additional details on the missing minutes, saying they ”To be clear most of the minutes are from workshops and we are missing only one regular Council meeting from 2019.”
While the council was willing to allow overtime for the task, council member Ed London objected, as did council member Luis Lauredo. London inquired on the need for haste. “If we’ve had it like this for a couple years, what’s the difference if it takes a couple of months to get it done? I understand we have to do this but why rush it?”
Village attorney Chad Friedman said the council is required by state law to provide and approve minutes in writing -- not just provide the public with access to a Youtube replay of a meeting.
“There is a legal requirement to provide the minutes in writing and it should be done as promptly as possible,” Friedman said. “It’s not that we have anybody beating down the door right now, but if we get a records request we are going to have to do it very promptly.”
Segurola was emphatic in arguing, unsuccessfully, that the transcribing task be done with an estimated 50 hours of overtime.
“If every day we’re out of compliance, and some of these go back years. If we have a problem and know it we should do everything possible to fix it as quickly as we can. I don’t think this is something that can wait,’’ he said.
Kulpa, who has been with the city for seven years, confirmed he is seeking the permanent village clerk position, bringing with him a few Information Technology (IT) tasks from his former position. The list of candidates is expected to be pared down to five candidates at the next council meeting, with the final selection at the following meeting.
Before the final vote to proceed with the transcriptions, with a request that Kulpa report his progress in two weeks, Petros offered a suggestion on how the situation can be avoided in the future.
“We need to do a better job on oversight,” she said (the clerk position is a direct report to the village council). “As a follow up, at the end of every year the council needs to make sure everything is in place so we can track it going forward so this doesn’t happen again.”