Skip to main content

Voices. Knowledge. Solutions.

Avoid Adopting an Agenda as an Action Item

Many cities and towns include adoption of the agenda as the first item of business on the agenda for their public meetings. Should they?

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, the agenda is not binding unless it is adopted by the body, and the rules state that “[i]n cases in which an agenda is adopted, usually this is done at the outset of a session ….” However, state laws and local ordinances will override Robert’s Rules, even if the body has explicitly adopted Robert’s Rules as its parliamentary procedures.

The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act states requirements and provides context for public meeting agendas. In particular, the General Assembly amended FOIA in 2015 to provide that “[a]n agenda for regularly scheduled or special meetings must be posted … at least twenty-four hours prior to such meetings.” Once the agenda is posted, the council may add items to the agenda only by posting a new, timely notice, or by securing a 2/3 vote of the body.

In this light, the adoption of an agenda at the meeting itself is largely redundant. By operation of the 2015 FOIA amendments, the agenda is legally “adopted” when it is posted. In fact, including adoption of the agenda as an action item is likely more problematic than useful. Because the body may add an item to the agenda only in exceptional circumstances, councilmembers may misunderstand the latitude they have in adopting the agenda.

Because of this, the Municipal Association of SC recommends against including adoption of the agenda as an action item at public meetings. Instead, the council should have a set procedure for setting or assembling the items on the agenda. Most local codes delegate the power to set the agenda to a single person, usually the mayor or the manager. 

Under this approach, the agenda would be considered to be adopted — and would therefore be binding on the body — no less than 24 hours before the meeting. Holding a formal vote on the matter would be unnecessary.