Apr. 13, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The city council is preparing to move away from Robert’s Rules of Order for their meetings. The council’s rules committee has requested that staff, led by City Attorney Brian Head, draft custom rules to help guide meetings.

Head noted that there is often a lot of confusion with Robert’s Rules of Orders and pointed to rules that state any person may only speak twice on any given subject and for not more than ten minutes.

“We don’t even come close to following those rules,” Head said.

While the council does have its own code of conduct provision, Head encouraged the committee to consider adopting a formal set of rules.

The committee largely agreed.

Councilmember Diane Forte suggested that the council should keep rules like the ones Head mentioned to impose time limits and keep a sense of decorum when debating issues – and not letting debates become too personal.

But Councilmember Phyllis Edson expressed concern about becoming too strict in how they handle rules for discussion and debate, particularly during public hearings.

Head said that these rules would not be immutable and would be likely to be adjusted as they’re put into practice and as the city council changes.

“None of these rules are totally written in stone,” Head said.

A draft set of rules will be proposed for discussion at the committee’s June meeting. Those rules will be presented as a working document and will start with the issues that the council already runs into most often, such as the procedures for amending a vote, postponing a vote, tabling a discussion or determining what motions take precedence.

Robert’s Rules of Order was first published in 1876 and has been a standard guiding document for conducting formal meetings.

No vote was taken at the committee’s Apr. 4 meeting. All committee members (Councilmembers Forte, Edson, Trish Carlyle and Bob Johnson) were present.