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Rules are wonderful to have in many situations. They define expectations. When expectations are clear and agreed upon, things go more smoothly than if they aren’t.
Councilman Ron Crawford expected to have a chance to nominate a new member to the county’s redevelopment commission when appointments were made Dec. 15. He asserted that Robert’s Rules of Order require a call for “any other nominations” before voting occurs on any that have been put forth.
The response he got from Council President Alan Cassidy was that the council had never adopted Robert’s Rules, suggesting the county’s fiscal body was therefore not bound by them.
Cassidy was right. County Auditor Connie Berger told the News later she had checked with attorney Jim Tyler, who said he could find no evidence the council had ever adopted the rules.
We are not surprised that Crawford assumed Robert’s Rules were in effect. In all of the meetings we’ve attended of the various councils, boards and other groups on which we report, we don’t recall anyone ever saying, “We go by Robert’s Rules.” But the very civil, orderly way those meetings are conducted could easily lead one to assume somebody’s rules are guiding the processes used.
The fact that Robert’s Rules were never codified into a set of council bylaws, however, does not mean processes they describe cannot be used. Indeed, many of the council’s actions mirror guidance provided within them. So even if the council was not bound to entertain any and all other nominations offered by any councilmen, they certainly could have taken a moment to do so.
Crawford was likely as surprised as we were at Cassidy’s “we don’t have to” response. Had we been in the chair of either councilman, we might have lacked the presence of mind to handle the issue in the way we feel it should have gone.
“OK, even if we’re not bound by Robert’s Rules of Order, could we open the floor to more nominations before we vote,” either councilman might have suggested. We think it unlikely any other councilman would have objected. Given the name recognition and resumes of the candidates being considered, the outcome might very likely have been the same.
Such a move would have demonstrated, however, that the council is willing to consider, at least for a moment, a new idea or a new contender for a county position. We urge the council to adopt that attitude of openness as a standard operating procedure.
We also urge them and other public bodies that haven’t already done so to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order so expectations will be clear in everyone’s mind.
Already standard is the practice of contenders for council and other seats to promise they’ll listen to the concerns of constituents. Once in office, they should take the time to listen to each other, as well.
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