Consulting Engineers and Planners
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San Francisco, Ca 94105
415 543 9820

October 4, 1988                                                                  03 00053 8100402


Subject:  Broadwater Power Project
                Contract 1189-2
                Meeting Notes Procedures
The State has a contract which will likely require resolution of major claims.

Successful presentation and defense of claims requires clear and convincing evidence. Diary (and meeting) notes are a standard procedure for assembling evidence in claims and managing projects.

What then should be the standard of content and application of the Diary?

Major concerns are that the Diary is not a verbatim transcript of what was said; that it contains understandings, intent and context (i.e. the Engineer's opinion on matters he considers material to performance); that a contractor wants the Engineer to omit understandings the Contractor finds disadvantageous to its position.

The contractor has complained that the Diary is not accurate, and submitted comments on 880929. The Engineer should find Sletten's comments are generally accurate with respect to what was said, but do not convey all that was intended nor understood on a variety of critical subjects (e.g. Curb Ring installation Sletten Notes lines 1097 to 1102). This issue has been raised repeatedly since the 880907 meeting when the Contractor offered the following view:

"...meeting minutes should be a true and accurate recording of statements made during the meeting as possible. [sic] Interjections of opinion are not acceptable. Self serving determinations, opinions, and positions, if not actually made during the meeting, would better be transmitted under separate cover when those determinations, opinions and positions are a result of the meeting and the ensuing discussions."

At that time the contractor was informed during the meeting approximately, as follows:

Rod Welch said in substance that Sletten's proposed standard is inadequate to the purpose of the Notes and the interests of the Project. Besides containing what was said, it is also important to know in a timely manner what was intended and understood, as a result of what was said, and how it aligns with project requirements.

A typical meeting, can involve some 50 or so different subjects. To deny the Engineer the opportunity to provide context and summary in the Meeting Notes, defeats the purpose of meeting: to achieve common understanding of problems and decisions that expedite the work in conformance with requirements. Issuing 20 separate letters is too burdensome for effective management. Such segmentation adds confusion in the record by forcing needless proliferation of documents with attendant increased costs of production, storage, handling and research. It causes misunderstanding, mistakes, delay and extra cost.

Of course it is harmful to falsely attribute agreement or acquiescence where none occurred. It is improper to misrepresent and falsely characterize comments of those attending the meeting, as charged by Sletten, ref 5. The harm is compounded where there is unreasonable delay in distribution of the record.

Protection from these potential abuses arises in several ways.

  1. Multiple parties attended the meeting and many took notes. A pattern of complaints and objections with respect to accuracy such as those filed by Sletten (ref 5), would eliminate the effect of such abuse.

  2. The parties positions are well established in the record. Signifi- cant deviations that show up consistently in the meeting Notes, eliminates the effect of such Notes.

  3. Sletten's tape recordings offer complete protection against false and improper meeting Notes.

These protections, incorporating procedures requested by Sletten and accepted by the Engineer, together with the demands of the Project for efficient and timely flow of information, permit use of meeting Notes for thorough and uniform communication of understandings, intent and discussion about critical activities.

Only the first paragraph was included in the notes because the subsequent material was considered opinion and so was omitted under the Contractor's standard.

A primary purpose of the Diary (by extension, here the meeting notes): is to provide a uniform data base to ensure all parties are operating under the same understandings with respect to the Engineer's opinion.

Meeting attendees, including Sletten, should be performing in accordance with the understandings presented in the Engineer's Notes, rather than on the basis of each attendees own notes. To the extent that attendees believe the Engineer's understandings materially misrepresent what was intended, then those who hold such belief have a duty to immediately disclose their position and the basis for it, citing their own notes or recollection. This proposition needs to be conveyed to Sletten, quickly because it is clear they believe that if their opinion about what was intended is different from the Engineer's then, they may proceed according their understandings. This is the cause of project failure.

With respect to complaints, the Engineer should investigate and issue a correction, if he believes it is warranted. In any case, parties have their own notes and tape recordings to establish whatever they feel is helpful to them.

The purpose of this procedure is to avoid a situation where each attendee is performing according to its own understandings. The Engineer's duty to direct the work requires uniform understanding of his intent. Weekly progress meet- ings are a primary tool by which this is accomplished because they bring together parties with conflicting interests who necessarily view discussion from different perspectives. If all the Engineer did was publish a transcript of verbatim discussion, it would do no more than reinforce misimpressions from what was already heard. Similarly, if the Engineer publishes only that which all parties agree to be published, then the Notes reflect only the lowest common denominator of agreement among parties of conflicting interest. Where major disputes exist, Notes would be bereft of useful information under that procedure.

All of this redounds to the Engineer's benefit by showing that decisions taken were carefully thought out and reasonable in light of the information available at the time a decision was needed, even though in retrospect one decision or another may not otherwise appear to be reasonable.