Council Manual Section 2:
Duties and Legal Aspects of the County Extension Council
A series of IMPACT leaflets were developed to assist the councils. Please refer to:
Preparing the council annual report
At the close of each calendar year the council, through its secretary shall make an annual detailed report to the county court (commission), covering all receipts and expenditures, together with a summary of work undertaken and results accomplished. The report shall be filed with the county court (commission) not later than February first, following the close of the year or portion of year covered by the report.
This instruction from the Missouri statutes requires every county extension council to produce a county annual report.
Additionally, the county annual report — if prepared with the thought of distribution to a wider audience than only the county commission — can be a good marketing and public relations tool. The annual report should be a document that any council or staff member could hand proudly to a county commissioner or other community leader and say, "This represents our best efforts."
Above all else, the report should demonstrate how extension programs have affected clients' lives positively. The primary focus is on what has happened as a result of the staff and council members' activities. This can be done by including client testimonials, evaluation results, newspaper clippings and statistical data supporting the programs' objectives and accomplishments. Whenever possible, use photos of local people, identifying them by name. Commissioners are interested in their constituents.
Another important area to report on is affirmative action impact. What progress is being made in providing educational opportunities for those with handicaps, older and low-income citizens, black, Hispanic and other minority audiences?
Making the piece attractive and easy to read also is of prime importance. Use two- or three-column formats, bold type headings, interesting leading paragraphs, high-quality reproduction and attractive overall design.
Finally, the report must include financial data, including all revenue and expenditures by type. Again, easy-to-read and attractive presentation of the data adds to readability of the report.
Ideally, compiling information for the annual report is a yearlong process. As soon as one year's report is completed, the staff and council should evaluate the issue and plan for the next year. Photos, clippings and summary reports should be gathered throughout the year to avoid last-minute panic.
The following "Checklist for Preparing Extension Council Annual Reports" has been drafted and field tested as an aid in helping you evaluate your current report and plan your next year's report.
Checklist for Preparing Extension Council Annual Reports:
- current logo: University of Missouri Extension
- name of extension council
- affirmative action statement: "University of Missouri Extension does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability or status as a Vietnam era veteran in employment or programs."
- graphics, photos, etc., that communicate a positive image of county's extension programs
- time covered by report
- annual report
- letter from council secretary and chairman, may be co-signed by CPD
- brief description of mission, goals, initiatives, history, etc. of University of Missouri Extension
- roster of membership, including officers
- description of duties and responsibilities
- roster of staff headquartered in county and those with primary assignments in the county
- brief description of staffing, organizational structure and how people access resources
- all revenue and expenditures by type, not just general operating for period of the report
- financial relationship between the University and the council
- amount and type of University funding
- primary focus on client actions
- program activities
- clear program objectives, stated in measurable terms
- sponsoring organizations, teachers, locations
- data demonstrating program results: statistical summary of program activities, testimonials,
- news clippings, evaluation data
- targeted to primary audience: county commission, public officials, key leaders
- affirmative action impact, including examples of how programs have improved lives of minority and hard-to-reach audiences
- news writing style: easy to read; addresses who, what, when, where and why; consistent throughout report
- brief, overall description of each initiative/program area, including objectives, primary audiences and rationale about its importance
- clear, sharp print quality
- paper opaque enough to avoid bleeding of ink; preferably white or blue paper
- ink color in blue or black
- layout that enhances readability by using proper headings, two or three columns, graphics, photos, etc.
- inserts to highlight quotes, impact information, devices to break up text
- clear photos; captions identifying individuals wherever possible
- graphics to highlight data
- table of contents
- numbered pages
- statement from staff thanking council, volunteers, county commissions, others for their support;
- listing of county commissioners/county legislators.
Open meetings — Open records laws
EXTENSION COUNCIL ACTIONS TO MEET REQUIREMENTS OF THE OPEN MEETINGS AND OPEN RECORDS LAWS (Sunshine Laws)
Missouri has a commitment to openness in government, clearly stated in Section 610.010 to 610.030 and 610.100 to 610.115 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.
Except as provided by applicable laws, statutes require public bodies, such as county extension councils, to conduct their activities - meetings, discussions, votes, actions - in a manner open to the public. Council records also must be available to the public.
Of particular importance to county extension councils are sections of the law dealing with meeting notices, open and closed meetings, and open records.
If a member of the council is found guilty of violating the open meetings and open records laws, a circuit court can fine the member up to $500 and may order payment by the member of all costs and reasonable attorney's fees to any party successfully establishing a violation by the council or council member.
At least 24 hours (exclusive of weekends and holidays when the county extension center is closed) before a meeting, a notice of the meeting must be posted prominently in the county extension center. The notice also may be posted at the site of the meeting if that is not the extension center.
The meeting notice must include:
- Time of the meeting;
- Date of the meeting;
- Place of the meeting;
- A tentative agenda; and
- Whether the meeting is open or closed.
If exceptional circumstances prevent 24-hour prior notice or prevent the meeting from being held at a convenient time or in a place reasonably accessible to the public, the reasons must be stated in the minutes.
In addition to the posted notice, copies must be made available to any representative of the news media who has asked for notice of extension council meetings.
Records of extension councils are to be open and available to the public for copying, unless otherwise provided by law. A reasonable fee, not to exceed the actual cost, may be charged for providing copies.
Each council must appoint a custodian for the records. Each request for access to records must be acted upon no later than the end of the third business day following when the request was received by the custodian. If access is not provided, a written statement explaining why not is to be provided.
The council can vote to have closed meetings, votes and records if they are within the exceptions stated in Section 610.021.RSMo. Exceptions most likely to apply to extension councils include:
- leasing, purchasing or selling real estate if public knowledge might adversely affect the transaction;
- hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting employees; and
- individual identifiable personnel records.
To close a meeting, vote or record, a majority of the council members attending must vote in favor of closure in a public vote.
When voting to close a meeting, the council must tell the specific exception to the law justifying closure. No other topic may be discussed in the closed meeting.
A council unsure of the legality of its actions may seek an opinion from an attorney representing the council.
Copies of the statutes are available at the county extension center.