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 fire protection district 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 district 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 a fire district board should expect of a board member.
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 district notifications and attesting to the accuracy of the district’s records.
The secretary is to be the caretaker and applier of the district seal (321.170).
When the board needs to report on matters of district 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 that they are publicly posted in a timely manner as is 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 should also be designated as custodian of district records (see more detail below in Custodian of records and in Chapter IX. Meetings, Records and Votes).
In addition to the requirements listed above, Missouri has adopted a local government archive law that empowers the secretary of state to promulgate rules about which records fire districts must maintain and how long they must be retained. These regulations can be found on the secretary of state’s website at http://sos.mo.gov/archives/localrecs/schedules. A fire district secretary 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. Fire district 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 must be recorded in the FPD board minutes.
Custodian of records
State open meetings and records laws require each political subdivision to formally appoint a custodian of records (610.023). The name and contact procedures must be publicly posted. 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).
Because the secretary is required to keep board minutes, attendance at all board sessions is part of the job. Provision should be made in district rules of procedure to designate an acting secretary to temporarily fulfill the secretary’s duties when the secretary cannot attend a meeting or perform other required duties.