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Guest Susan Richardson

Do Robert's Rules prohibit discussion between officials and the general public in meetings ?

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Guest Susan Richardson

 I was at a recent school board meeting in my town. A citizen got up and asked the board a question. The board nembers told the citizen that, per Robert's Rules of Order,, dialogue would not be occurring. She was told she could speak but that the board would not be responding.

Is disallowing a dialogue with citizens at a public meeting like this one of Robert's rules of order?

thank you.

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Well, sort of, but since this appears to be a public body, I imagine your state's open meetings laws and the school board's own rules are playing a bigger role than RONR.

As far as RONR is concerned, people who are not members of the body that is meeting have no rights at all, not even the right to be there, let alone speak, except with the permission of the assembly.

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Agreeing with Mr. Brown, your state's Sunshine laws would regulate such things, and they vary a great deal from state to state.  In some states the public is allowed to attend and observe only.  In others, they may speak during designated periods.  There is probably nothing to prohibit the board from responding, but you can't force them.  Some respond freely, others respond in writing, others just say "Thank you.  Next!""

Edited by Gary Novosielski

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I agree with Mr. Novosielski's additional comments.  Most likely, the issue you asked about is covered by your state's open meetings laws (sunshine laws) and/or the school board's own rules.  It is very common for public bodies to allow the public to comment, but responses by the board members are rarely required.  That seems to vary from one public body to the next, and seems to depend on the mood of the chairman or the members and the nature of the question as much as anything else.  Sometimes they respond voluntarily, sometimes (probably most of the time) they do not.  You cannot force them to respond.

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