Guide for Members of Public Boards and Commissions: Chapter 4

Exercise care when making decisions and voting by informing yourself, asking questions and expecting answers.
Boards and commissions infographic for instructing members on how to be informed

Table of Contents

Be Informed

To be an active and effective board member, you must be informed. Consequently, before your board meets, arm yourself with accurate information to make thoughtful decisions. Take time to prepare for meetings in advance. Read the materials that are distributed and think about the issues on the agenda.

Questions to ask:

  • How far in advance does the board receive meeting materials so that you can properly prepare for pending actions before voting on a matter before the board?
  • What is the procedure for requesting the organization to provide additional information, either in advance of or at a meeting?
  • What is the procedure for asking individuals from the organization to attend the meeting to provide additional information?

Public discourse, analysis and debate are expected, whether public board members are trustees of a public college or commissioners of a local housing authority.

When your board meets, ask probing questions that are relevant to the issue and debate the issue at hand during meetings to get information that will help you make informed decisions. If the chair of the board or an official in the organization does not provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision, ask for it. If you do not receive the information you need, ask to change the date of the vote.

Before Voting on a Matter, Ask Questions

  • What statutes or regulations apply to the requested action?
  • What internal procedures apply to the requested action, and were those procedures followed?
  • Does the requested action align with the public organization's mission, responsibilities, priorities and budget?
  • Do you need additional data so that you can make an informed decision?
  • Do you need to hear from others in the organization? For instance, does legal counsel or human resources have information necessary to make this decision?

Exercise Judgment and Always Act in the Best Interests of the Public Organization

Do not allow yourself to be marginalized by an executive or fellow board member who may assert knowledge or expertise above yours, or who simply does not agree with you.

Do not rubber stamp official acts that come before your public board – your work is important, and you need to be informed.

Additional Resources

Contact   for Guide for Members of Public Boards and Commissions: Chapter 4

Date published: February 1, 2022
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