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blindsiding administration


Guest esmdr

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I am a member of a city council that consists of 4 council members and a Mayor. We have an administrator, and a clerk that resides at meetings. I am looking for advice or direction on a couple of matters.

1. We have a member that consistently waits till the end of a meeting to raise issues that are not on the agenda. The Mayor does ask for additions to the agenda before it's approved, and there are line items on the agenda for "other business" and "council reports", which are supposed to be used to update the council of what is happening on other boards. (park, EDA, ...) Before the meeting is adjourned, this member does not directly address his issue, instead he plays a sometimes transparent, but still confusing game of "cat and mouse" in which he asks questions that he knows the answer to, in hopes of trapping people in a lie??? Or maybe just for the joy of making people sweat and go on the defensive. I'm not really sure of his motives in this tactic. It's frustrating, confusing, and a time waster. Are there any rules of order or points of ethics that I can reference?

2. Along the same lines another council member presented a letter that he received in the mail from a disgruntled renter of our community center. (she was upset with the way the administrator treated her) I don't think the letter is from a voting resident of the city. Certain members of the council were unaware of the letter, and the Mayor was absent from the meeting. The letter was sent several days before the meeting, but no one informed the administrator of the letter, or that they wanted to address it at the regular council meeting. Do you have any advice about the blindsiding of people at meetings? I was the acting Mayor at this meeting.

Here's what happened in issue 1. The administrator, the finance committee members, and I answered his questions to everyone's satisfaction, but he kept asking the same question over again, until the city clerk looked at the fire chief (her husband), and urged him to speak up. He just shook his head no, and I then asked him to answer the question from his point of view. (I have questions about the clerks actions here too. Not sure if she should be speaking at a meeting, or taking minutes) ~ What I find so unethical about this tactic is that this member feels the need to put several people on the spot, and blindly defend themselves, before he makes a point as simple as lets have better communication.

In issue 2. I just had the clerk make copies of the letter for the council, and the administrator and asked her to put it on the work session at the next meeting. In hindsight, I think we will handle this in a personnel committee meeting, but any rules of order, or some reference to ethics would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time in this matter

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I am a member of a city council that consists of 4 council members and a Mayor. We have an administrator, and a clerk that resides at meetings. I am looking for advice or direction on a couple of matters.

1. We have a member that consistently waits till the end of a meeting to raise issues that are not on the agenda. The Mayor does ask for additions to the agenda before it's approved, and there are line items on the agenda for "other business" and "council reports", which are supposed to be used to update the council of what is happening on other boards. (park, EDA, ...) Before the meeting is adjourned, this member does not directly address his issue, instead he plays a sometimes transparent, but still confusing game of "cat and mouse" in which he asks questions that he knows the answer to, in hopes of trapping people in a lie??? Or maybe just for the joy of making people sweat and go on the defensive. I'm not really sure of his motives in this tactic. It's frustrating, confusing, and a time waster. Are there any rules of order or points of ethics that I can reference?

2. Along the same lines another council member presented a letter that he received in the mail from a disgruntled renter of our community center. (she was upset with the way the administrator treated her) I don't think the letter is from a voting resident of the city. Certain members of the council were unaware of the letter, and the Mayor was absent from the meeting. The letter was sent several days before the meeting, but no one informed the administrator of the letter, or that they wanted to address it at the regular council meeting. Do you have any advice about the blindsiding of people at meetings? I was the acting Mayor at this meeting.

Here's what happened in issue 1. The administrator, the finance committee members, and I answered his questions to everyone's satisfaction, but he kept asking the same question over again, until the city clerk looked at the fire chief (her husband), and urged him to speak up. He just shook his head no, and I then asked him to answer the question from his point of view. (I have questions about the clerks actions here too. Not sure if she should be speaking at a meeting, or taking minutes) ~ What I find so unethical about this tactic is that this member feels the need to put several people on the spot, and blindly defend themselves, before he makes a point as simple as lets have better communication.

In issue 2. I just had the clerk make copies of the letter for the council, and the administrator and asked her to put it on the work session at the next meeting. In hindsight, I think we will handle this in a personnel committee meeting, but any rules of order, or some reference to ethics would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time in this matter

I think your group could benefit from some training on the basics of parliamentary procedure. Pick up a copy of RONR In Brief, and read it from cover to cover. It will probably help out greatly.

A meeting is not for the discussion of issues; it's for the transaction of business... for which an agenda is not required.

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1. We have a member that consistently waits till the end of a meeting to raise issues that are not on the agenda. The Mayor does ask for additions to the agenda before it's approved, and there are line items on the agenda for "other business" and "council reports", which are supposed to be used to update the council of what is happening on other boards. (park, EDA, ...) Before the meeting is adjourned, this member does not directly address his issue, instead he plays a sometimes transparent, but still confusing game of "cat and mouse" in which he asks questions that he knows the answer to, in hopes of trapping people in a lie??? Or maybe just for the joy of making people sweat and go on the defensive. I'm not really sure of his motives in this tactic. It's frustrating, confusing, and a time waster. Are there any rules of order or points of ethics that I can reference?

Nothing in RONR requires that items be on an agenda (although your rules might). Asking questions is in order, but members are under no obligation to answer. Since the member waits until the end of the meeting, a simple solution would be to adopt a motion to Adjourn. This seems particularly appropriate after it is apparent that the member's questions have been answered. See RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 294-295 for information on questions of this nature.

2. Along the same lines another council member presented a letter that he received in the mail from a disgruntled renter of our community center. (she was upset with the way the administrator treated her) I don't think the letter is from a voting resident of the city. Certain members of the council were unaware of the letter, and the Mayor was absent from the meeting. The letter was sent several days before the meeting, but no one informed the administrator of the letter, or that they wanted to address it at the regular council meeting. Do you have any advice about the blindsiding of people at meetings? I was the acting Mayor at this meeting.

The motions to Postpone Definitely or to Refer are excellent ways of dealing with motions which have come out of nowhere and need more study before taking action. See RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 168-191 for more information. Additionally, since this is a public body, it is highly likely there are applicable laws on the subject. Look into "open meeting laws" or "sunshine laws."

(I have questions about the clerks actions here too. Not sure if she should be speaking at a meeting, or taking minutes)

The clerk is not a member of the assembly and may only speak if it pertains to her position or if permitted by the assembly, at least so far as RONR is concerned.

In hindsight, I think we will handle this in a personnel committee meeting, but any rules of order, or some reference to ethics would be appreciated.

I mentioned the pertinent rules of order above. What little RONR has to say about "ethics" in meetings (RONR uses the term "decorum") can be found in RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 391-394.

A meeting is not for the discussion of issues; it's for the transaction of business... for which an agenda is not required.

The transaction of business involves the discussion of issues. Also, since this is a public body, it's quite likely there are applicable laws on the subject of agendas.

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