Paul Walden, Addison City Council, Post (Facebook)
March 3, 2017
I was a bit mystified why the Council spent well over an hour on a line-by-line review of the four- page City Council Guidelines on Meeting Protocols and Decorum document on Feb. 28.
At first, it appeared that the mayor was trying to justify his appalling and embarrassing interrogation of both staff and zoning applicant at the Feb. 14 meeting. But, later, it seemed to be focused on whether council members had the right to disagree with how a mayor managed a meeting (he refused to recognize some council members so they could make a motion to proceed with voting and cut off his lengthy questioning). The mayor seemed to feel that if council members questioned his way of presiding, it demonstrated a lack of respect for the office.
We made a number of changes in the document, though this need not have occupied more than an hour of the public’s time as we parsed sentences. But the discussion did point out several substantive issues that were not resolved.
- The procedures indicate that the Town considers Robert’s Rules for Order only as a “guide” in managing a meeting, not the final authority that most organizations accept. With no recognized, procedural authority in place to resolve disputes, this status gives the mayor and city attorney permission to conduct a meeting however they choose. Short of walking out so a quorum is not present, council members have no way to be recognized to make a motion the mayor, as presiding officer, may not wish to have made. That difficulty was amply demonstrated on Feb. 14 when the mayor ignored multiple motions from Council Member Bruce Arfsten. Hardly an example of democracy at work.
- The council and staff relations section suggests that, if council members have questions about information in the packet, they should talk with the City Manager in advance, so as to save time during council sessions. The mayor violated this procedure at the Feb. 14 meeting with his lengthy questioning and, on other occasions, has brought documents to council members during the meeting and insisted they be acted upon at that meeting. Not exactly the spirit of cooperation.