Rules, We Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Rules

gavelFor those of you who were unable to attend the Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting on Thursday (1/8/15) night, I want to share with our smart readers what went wrong. Before I jump into my rant, please remember, this is MY opinion, only MY opinion. If you don’t want to read on, then so be it. You won’t hurt my feelings.

A little background first. Most government entities use parliamentary procedure, also referred to Robert’s Rules of Order, to organize and run their meetings. This set of guidelines is a generally accepted way to facilitate meetings that run smoothly and efficiently. If you are not familiar, Robert’s Rules of Order (I will hereafter refer to them as RRO if you don’t mind) have been around since the late 1800’s. A man named Henry Martyn Robert wrote the book “Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies” in 1876 after determining a need to conduct meetings in an organized manner.(My source is “Robert’s Rules for Dummies” by C. Alan Jennings.)

As a former member of Toastmasters and having been an officer of several civic organizations, I can attest that RRO is widely used as the “how to” guide to running a meeting. Meetings that do not follow the most basic RRO format can become complete chaos.

All that being said, I was greatly dismayed to watch the Mayor of La Vergne disregard a very important part of parliamentary procedure during Thursday’s meeting. So, I did a little digging to find out if the BOMA is to follow RRO during meetings. Thankfully, the city has ALL public records available for your perusal through their webpage here.  What did I find after about 6 minutes of digging? None other than the Municipal Code. Wanna see it, go here.  It’s great information to dig through. In this code, under General Administration, you will find section 1-104 General Rules of Order. It says “The rules of order and parliamentary procedure contained in Robert’s Rules of Order, shall govern the transaction of business by and before the board of mayor and alderman at its meeting in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with provisions of the charter or this code. (1994 Code, § 1-104, modified)” Ok, so we have ground rules. And we have a Mayor running the meetings who has been a sitting elected official on this VERY SAME BOARD for something like 10 years. So, he should be intimately familiar with RRO. Right?

So, here is the link to the city meeting so you can view it yourself.  The reports for the city departments are not super exciting so if you don’t want to watch, you don’t have to. So, skip ahead to 39:27 and watch some amazing first responders receiving awards for saving a life. HOW AWESOME! Our first responders are the best!!! After the awards are handed out, (at 44:00) the meat and potatoes of the meeting begin; the motions and voting portion, the portion I am seriously irritated about.

Robert’s rules provide for exactly how a motion and a vote are to be handled. Once a motion has been called for and a second received and all discussion is over, the presiding officer should call for a vote. (Notice I said call for a vote, not tell the board how to vote.) Calling for a vote is done by restating the motion and calling for all votes in favor of the motion to say “Aye” followed by all opposed to say “No.” The mayor never calls for opposing votes with the exception of the roll call vote he requested. His words (see time stamp 44:33 for the first instance) are “All say Aye.” Then he states “No noes, it carried.” He NEVER allowed for a no vote! How can our Mayor get away with telling the board how to vote? Seems shady to me.

In all fairness, I would overlook this if he was new to board meetings. I would overlook this if it was a onetime occurrence at this meeting.   But, I counted 5 times in 4 minutes and that wasn’t all of the times he made this mistake. How does this happen? Are there behind the scenes conversations occurring (in clear violation of the Sunshine Laws we know he is fond of disregarding?) Does he have a crystal ball, the power of premonition or a fortune teller on payroll?

So smart readers, what do you think? Much ado about nothing, or the start of something stinky? You know how I feel, tell me how you feel.

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