QUESTION: The Davis-Stirling Act requires an agenda be included with meeting notices but does not provide a definition of agenda or what the bare bones requirements for one are. I hope your firm will be able to expound an answer.
ANSWER: As you pointed out, meeting agendas are now required by law. There are two statutes that refer to agendas:
Notice of a board meeting shall contain the agenda for the meeting. (Civ. Code §4920(d).)
[T]he board may not discuss or take action on any item at a non-emergency meeting unless the item was placed on the agenda included in the notice that was distributed..." (Civ. Code §4930(a).)
Legislators often leave a lot unsaid when they enact laws. They either assume we know what they are talking about or they misjudged things. If nobody can agree on what a statute means, the courts sometimes weigh in. In this case, I don't think we need a judge to tell us what an agenda means.
Definition. Black's Law Dictionary defines "agenda" as "items of business or discussion to be brought up at a meeting." I checked Robert's Rules of Order but didn't find anything useful. I then checked the Complete Idiot's Guide to Parliamentary Procedure and found the following:
If you really want to manage your meeting, you need an agenda. With an agenda, the specific items that are expected to come up at a meeting are placed into the order of business.
How detailed should an open meeting agenda be? It needs to contain enough information so members can easily understand what will be discussed at the board meeting.
Maintenance Issues. For example, if the board intends to discuss installation of a new landscape sprinkler system, reroofing a building, and repainting the clubhouse, a generic agenda item called "Maintenance" is not enough. No one reading the posted agenda will have any idea what that means. The agenda should list each item of business. That way, members can decide if they want to attend and give their opinions during open forum. See Sample Board Meeting Agenda for open meetings.
Consent Agenda. Boards are allowed to include "consent agenda" items in their meeting agenda.
Executive Session. Notice of executive session meetings must also contain an agenda. (Civ. Code §4920(d).) Because executive sessions are confidential and topics are generally noted in open meeting minutes (Civ. Code §4935(e)), agenda descriptions are more circumspect. See Sample Agenda for Executive Sessions.
Recommendation. To learn more about parliamentary procedure, I don't recommend buying the unabridged Robert's Rules of Order. All you need is a simplified version that covers the basics. Amazon.com has a variety of materials you can purchase.
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