Rules for Missouri Fire Protection Districts
Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.
Options for selection
The FPD board elects a secretary and a treasurer, or one person to serve as both, who may or may not be board members (321.170). Electing a nonmember as secretary has advantages. For example, board members have agreed to represent the residents of the FPD when making policy decisions, but the secretary may have difficulty participating fully in such discussions while trying to compile accurate minutes. The tasks required of the secretary, outlined below, represent office manager duties that may be more than an FPD board should expect of a board member.
A director who is also the secretary maintains all director rights and responsibilities, for example, a director/secretary may introduce motions, discuss them, and vote on all measures.
The secretary’s job is important and detailed; therefore it is important the secretary become familiar with and carry out each part of the job. A record lost, a list unmade or a report not filed can mean legal, financial or public relations trouble for an FPD. Details fall into place much better if the secretary is organized. This means doing jobs when they need to be done, having records when they are needed and knowing where things are.
The secretary’s job is actually the chair’s assistant; therefore, a secretary should always be prepared to explain what business is pending during a meeting.
The secretary’s tasks include posting notices of meetings, certifying adopted property tax levy rates to the county clerk, notifying the election authority of upcoming elections, making agendas publicly available, taking care of all FPD notifications, attesting to the accuracy of the FPD’s records, and responding to record requests under the Sunshine Law.
The secretary is to be the caretaker and applier of the FPD seal (321.340).
When the board needs to report on matters of FPD concern, the secretary will likely be asked to prepare the report. Although the board may wish to prepare its own agendas, the secretary is the one who ensures they are publicly posted in a timely manner as required by law (see Chapter IX. Meetings, Records and Votes).
Statutes say the secretary “shall keep in a well-bound book a record of all its [the board’s] proceedings, minutes of all meetings, certificates, contracts, bonds given by employees and a record of corporate acts” (321.170). Because of this specific legal requirement, the secretary, typically, is also designated as custodian of FPD records (see more detail in Custodian of records and in Chapter IX. Meetings, Records and Votes).
Secretary pro tem
Because the secretary is required to keep board minutes, attendance at all board sessions is part of the job. If the secretary is unable to attend, the secretary should make sure the chair has access to the approved or unapproved minutes of the previous meetings. Provision should be made in FPD rules of procedure to designate a secretary pro tem, which means a temporary secretary, to temporarily fulfill the secretary’s duties when the secretary cannot attend a meeting or perform other required duties.
Custodian of records
State open meetings and records laws require each political subdivision to formally appoint a custodian of records (610.023.1). The name and contact procedures must be publicly posted.
Custodian of records duties
The custodian of records maintains FPD records, approves removal of original public records, assures compliance with retention schedules under Chapter 109 and the associated local records board retention schedules, and acts upon requests for access to public records. The deadline to respond to requests for records is no later than the end of the third business day following the request and sooner if possible. If access is denied, the custodian must give a detailed explanation in writing within three days (see Chapter IX. Meetings, Records and Votes). Any official who refuses to permit inspection of public records can be removed from office, fined $100, and/or go to jail for up to 90 days (109.180), and can face penalties under the Sunshine Law and assessment of legal fees (610.027).
Missouri governments’ collective memory is housed in its permanent and historical records. Citizens have an ongoing need to access and obtain copies of these records. The Records Services Department of the office of the Secretary of State is responsible for managing both current and historical records of the state to ensure those records are accessible to Missouri citizens. It is also responsible for assisting local governments in records preservation and management.
As authorized by Missouri’s Business and Public Records Law (109.200-310), the Local Records Board serves as the coordinating board to establish proper record retention schedules for all local governments.
An FPD custodian of records should become familiar with these rules and follow them. (The secretary of state calls these rules “guidelines,” which implies they are not binding. However, most lawyers consider these guidelines to be the minimum required retention period. FPD boards should consider adopting an ordinance or policy that mirrors this schedule or includes longer retention periods.)
When records are destroyed, a report of the destruction should be recorded In the FPD board minutes.
(See Record keeping for EMS and ambulance services under Chapter XIX. Ambulance and Emergency Medical Services for more information on specific records for ambulance and emergency services.)