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AshMisako

Question about Mayors ability to remove items from an agenda without a vote..

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I have a question in regard to a "gentleman’s agreement" that is in place as an unspoken policy within my city council. There was a precedence set several years ago that if a council member was not able to be at a council meeting the mayor could remove an item from the agenda with no vote from the rest of the council. I hope the experts would be able to give me some idea if this is "proper" procedure? Any information would be great. Included is a hyperlink to the meeting in question 17:38 is where the topic is spoken about. You will also hear from our city attorney that says this policy is in our cities code but it is not written in it?

http://cityview.springfieldmo.gov/city-council-meeting-march-9-2015/

 

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I have a question in regard to a "gentleman’s agreement" that is in place as an unspoken policy within my city council. There was a precedence set several years ago that if a council member was not able to be at a council meeting the mayor could remove an item from the agenda with no vote from the rest of the council. I hope the experts would be able to give me some idea if this is "proper" procedure? Any information would be great.

 

It certainly is not proper procedure according to RONR. The council sets the agenda by majority vote, unless your rules provide otherwise. See FAQ #14.

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I agree that what you described is not technically proper according to RONR, but city councils are often quite a different animal from ordinary non-governmental assemblies and usually have very customized rules.  I have found that it is quite common for council members to have a sort of "gentleman's agreement" that, for example, if a member who is sponsoring a piece of legislation or has a particular interest in a piece of legislation is absent from the meeting at which it is to be taken up, they will defer (postpone) it until the next meeting so that he can be present to speak and vote on behalf of his legislation.

 

If they are going to follow the letter of RONR, someone would move to introduce the item on behalf of the absent member and then move to postpone the item until the next meeting and the council would approve the motion to postpone unanimously.  Or, in the alternative, they could vote to remove the item from the agenda.   It seems that this particular council has adopted a practice of taking a shortcut and allows the Mayor to simply remove the item from that meeting's agenda without objection at the request of a council member who is going to be absent from a meeting.  Note that I said it is apparently being done "without objection".  If no one objects, you can get away with a lot.  In this case, an objection would probably just prolong the process by a minute or two and the council would ultimately vote to postpone the matter anyway.

 

Note:  I just watched that portion of the meeting.  It confirms what I suspected:  The absent council member apparently made a request that the item be removed from the agenda until he could be present and the Mayor, who apparently presides at the meetings, honored that  request pursuant to their "gentleman's agreement" to honor such requests.  

 

I also note, as an aside, that the motion to have the item put back on the agenda at the next meeting failed, even though the vote was 4 to 2 in favor of putting it back on the agenda, because that council has eight members and a vote of a majority of the entire council is apparently necessary... being five votes.  Two members were absent.  That is a common requirement in city councils.

 

Edited to add:  You might also look at this council's method of removing items from the agenda at the request of an absent member as being done by unanimous consent:  If no one objects, it's a done deal and the council moves on to the next item of business.  Of course, ideally, the Mayor should say, "I have received a request from Mr. Smith, who is absent tonight, to remove this item from the agenda.  Is there any objection?  Hearing none, it is removed.  Next item, madam clerk."  

 

In the case of a governmental body such as a city council, though, this might technically require a record vote because of statutory requirements such  as open meetings laws (sunshine laws), the city charter, etc.  That will vary from state to state and body to body.

Edited by Richard Brown

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Thank you both for your input. The process in which this was gone through seemed a little shady to be honest and since there is nothing in writing saying this can or cannot be done I wanted to get the experts opinions. Thank you again. 

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