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How to properly point out when someone tells a blatant lie


Guest Mark
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Good Morning,

I am part of a Neighborhood Association which has a committee that reviews and supports development projects in our neighborhood. When homeowners go before the city's committee for approval, certain individuals are presenting themselves to the city to speak in opposition as representatives of the neighborhood association's committee, which there are not members of. They are falsely representing themselves during these meeting as representing the neighborhood as a whole vs as a private individual.

When I am setting in the meeting governed by Robert's Rules, how can I properly interrupt/interject/clarify that the individual is not a member of the committee and is only speaking for their personal interest? Would it be appropriate to call "Point of Information"?

Thank you in advanced for your assistance with this question!

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I'm having trouble keeping the different organizations straight. It seems the Neighborhood Association has its own committee (which, I'm guessing, is its board?), and we're talking about a public hearing before the city committee, which is something of a city council? What is your role in all this? Are you a member of the city council? If not, do you, owing to a special rule or an applicable law, have the unconditional right to speak and make motions at a city council meeting (or whatever meeting this is)?

Assuming you can participate in debate and make motions, I would think a series of questions should do it: Mr. Chairman, is the speaker authorized to speak for the committee? Has the committee adopted such a position, and if so, when? Are those minutes publicly available? Is there an officer of the association present who can verify that the association takes such a position?

What you shouldn't do is attack the people and call them liars, or accuse them of lying. Just aim to get the facts straight. If, when you ask questions, they are willing to take positions which are 'creative' with respect to the facts (and, remember, I have no idea what is true and what isn't), you can take it up with the association by asking to discipline the members for speaking on behalf of the association without authorization, and ask the association to take and publicize a clear position. 

But I see a bigger problem here. So far as I can tell, the only purpose of the association's committee is to review and support (or, presumably, not support, if that's what the review leads to) development projects. Assuming the items before the city are the sorts of things the committee is supposed to weigh in on, the committee ought to be making its position well known enough, at least to those in a position to decide, that individual members cannot get up at a public hearing and successfully misrepresent it. If its entire purpose is to say if the projects are a good idea or not, the city should hear from it, via its authorized representative (such as its chair), and not be fooled or misled by non-members of the committee giving second-hand claims as to what the committee thinks.

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It's not a "Point of Information" or "Request for Information"; you are attempting to provide information.  After a speaker is finished, simply stand up and say "Chair!" or "Mr. President".  If you're entitled to the floor at that moment, the chair should recognize you ("The Chair recognizes Mark."), and then you can speak.  But avoid using the names of other speakers; say "I hope the gentleman who last spoke will think of the possible consequences..." (RONR (11th ed.), p. 24, ll. 5-7).  

 

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9 minutes ago, Transpower said:

It's not a "Point of Information" or "Request for Information"; you are attempting to provide information.  After a speaker is finished, simply stand up and say "Chair!" or "Mr. President".  If you're entitled to the floor at that moment, the chair should recognize you ("The Chair recognizes Mark."), and then you can speak.  But avoid using the names of other speakers; say "I hope the gentleman who last spoke will think of the possible consequences..." (RONR (11th ed.), p. 24, ll. 5-7).  

 

I don't see what consequences we're discussing; as I understand it, the question is pointing out that individuals cannot speak for an organization of which they are not members. That said, sure, this is an approach that will work, but I don't think it is exclusive - to the point, there's nothing wrong with using a request for information, even if you strongly suspect you have the answer you seek - after all, that's a lot of how trial testimony works. Speaking in debate and saying that the association has taken no such position when, like the previous speaker, the OP is similarly unauthorized to speak for the association, seems like it could backfire to me. It just seems more strategic here to frame this as a question than as a contradictory statement. Plus you certainly don't want to say "the previous speaker has no authorization to speak for the association." First, if you don't either, you're in the same boat. Second, it is very close to a violation of decorum.

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I think we need more information in order to know exactly what is going on and who is appearing and speaking before which bodies.  It's rather confusing.

Perhaps I am differing from my colleagues, but it is my understanding that at some type of public city council (or city council committee meeting), during the public comment portion of the meeting, an individual is standing up to address the body and is falsely claiming to be representing a neighborhood association and falsely stating the position  of the association.  I see nothing wrong with a person who IS a legitimate representative of the association asking to be recognized and stating, in effect, "My name is John  Smith.  I am the president of the Amazing Heights neighborhood association.  The gentleman who spoke a few minutes ago about our association is not a member of our association, is not authorized to speak on behalf of our association, and has misrepresented what our official position is.  Our official  position is  as follows:  We support the planting of Palm  trees along the median of Palm Drive."

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1 hour ago, Joshua Katz said:

I'm having trouble keeping the different organizations straight. It seems the Neighborhood Association has its own committee (which, I'm guessing, is its board?), and we're talking about a public hearing before the city committee, which is something of a city council? What is your role in all this? Are you a member of the city council? If not, do you, owing to a special rule or an applicable law, have the unconditional right to speak and make motions at a city council meeting (or whatever meeting this is)?

My role is a member of the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee which reviews development in our historic neighborhood. I believe I have no right to speak at the city hearings unless I signup to speak for one of the cases they are hearing on that agenda. 

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Assuming you can participate in debate and make motions, I would think a series of questions should do it: Mr. Chairman, is the speaker authorized to speak for the committee? Has the committee adopted such a position, and if so, when? Are those minutes publicly available? Is there an officer of the association present who can verify that the association takes such a position?

This gets at the essence of my question. I am not part of the debate, and don't want to be unless someone misrepresents themselves as representing Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee. At that point, I would like to somehow correct that information during the hearing while setting in the audience.

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But I see a bigger problem here. So far as I can tell, the only purpose of the association's committee is to review and support (or, presumably, not support, if that's what the review leads to) development projects. Assuming the items before the city are the sorts of things the committee is supposed to weigh in on, the committee ought to be making its position well known enough, at least to those in a position to decide, that individual members cannot get up at a public hearing and successfully misrepresent it. If its entire purpose is to say if the projects are a good idea or not, the city should hear from it, via its authorized representative (such as its chair), and not be fooled or misled by non-members of the committee giving second-hand claims as to what the committee thinks.

We have criteria for reviewing cases and generally only review the larger projects. For those we send official letters of support or opposition. However, on smaller cases of home repairs for which we have not made or sent an official opinion previous members of the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee are going to the City meetings and representing themselves as still on the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee and speaking on our behalf when in fact they are only expressing their personal views. 

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1 hour ago, Transpower said:

It's not a "Point of Information" or "Request for Information"; you are attempting to provide information.  After a speaker is finished, simply stand up and say "Chair!" or "Mr. President".  If you're entitled to the floor at that moment, the chair should recognize you ("The Chair recognizes Mark."), and then you can speak.  But avoid using the names of other speakers; say "I hope the gentleman who last spoke will think of the possible consequences..." (RONR (11th ed.), p. 24, ll. 5-7).  

 

I am not entitled to the floor. I am just setting in the audience of a public meeting, and would like to know what means I have to properly get recognized by the chair to correct the false statement.

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1 minute ago, Guest Mark said:

My role is a member of the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee which reviews development in our historic neighborhood. I believe I have no right to speak at the city hearings unless I signup to speak for one of the cases they are hearing on that agenda. 

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1 minute ago, Guest Mark said:

This gets at the essence of my question. I am not part of the debate, and don't want to be unless someone misrepresents themselves as representing Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee. At that point, I would like to somehow correct that information during the hearing while setting in the audience.

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Well, this is venturing far from RONR, and into the rules of your city council (and likely applicable laws about public participation), but these two circumstances seem to present a problem. If you have no right to even participate in debate without previously signing up, I don't see a way you can respond on the fly, except by signing up to debate on everything, and then simply passing unless this has taken place. But even at that, if you are called to speak before the people you want to correct, I think you have a problem. You could sign up and then say "the association hasn't taken a position on this," but it becomes a question of who people believe.

 

3 minutes ago, Guest Mark said:

We have criteria for reviewing cases and generally only review the larger projects. For those we send official letters of support or opposition. However, on smaller cases of home repairs for which we have not made or sent an official opinion previous members of the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee are going to the City meetings and representing themselves as still on the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review committee and speaking on our behalf when in fact they are only expressing their personal views. 

Perhaps the association can adopt a procedure, when it is not reviewing something, of sending a letter to the city saying just that. It could also decide whom it wants to authorize to speak on its behalf (say, the chair), and then send a letter saying "here is a list of people authorized to speak for us - those not on this list are not." 

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Just now, Guest Mark said:

I am not entitled to the floor. I am just setting in the audience of a public meeting, and would like to know what means I have to properly get recognized by the chair to correct the false statement.

This is really a question about your open meeting and other laws. As far as RONR is concerned, the answer is you have no such means - but the fact that the other people are able to do what they're doing suggests there are ways within your rules or laws. But see my previous comment.

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1 hour ago, Joshua Katz said:

I don't see what consequences we're discussing; as I understand it, the question is pointing out that individuals cannot speak for an organization of which they are not members. That said, sure, this is an approach that will work, but I don't think it is exclusive - to the point, there's nothing wrong with using a request for information, even if you strongly suspect you have the answer you seek - after all, that's a lot of how trial testimony works. Speaking in debate and saying that the association has taken no such position when, like the previous speaker, the OP is similarly unauthorized to speak for the association, seems like it could backfire to me. It just seems more strategic here to frame this as a question than as a contradictory statement. Plus you certainly don't want to say "the previous speaker has no authorization to speak for the association." First, if you don't either, you're in the same boat. Second, it is very close to a violation of decorum.

I am authorized to speak on behalf of the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review Committee.

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1 hour ago, Richard Brown said:

I think we need more information in order to know exactly what is going on and who is appearing and speaking before which bodies.  It's rather confusing.

Perhaps I am differing from my colleagues, but it is my understanding that at some type of public city council (or city council committee meeting), during the public comment portion of the meeting, an individual is standing up to address the body and is falsely claiming to be representing a neighborhood association and falsely stating the position  of the association.  I see nothing wrong with a person who IS a legitimate representative of the association asking to be recognized and stating, in effect, "My name is John  Smith.  I am the president of the Amazing Heights neighborhood association.  The gentleman who spoke a few minutes ago about our association is not a member of our association, is not authorized to speak on behalf of our association, and has misrepresented what our official position is.  Our official  position is  as follows:  We support the planting of Palm  trees along the median of Palm Drive."

Mr. Brown, You have understood the situation perfectly. I am an appointed representative of the Neighborhood Association's Architectural Review Committee.

Is there anything I would need to say prior to standing up and introducing myself? This sounds much more straight forward than I expected.

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17 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

Perhaps the association can adopt a procedure, when it is not reviewing something, of sending a letter to the city saying just that. It could also decide whom it wants to authorize to speak on its behalf (say, the chair), and then send a letter saying "here is a list of people authorized to speak for us - those not on this list are not." 

I will propose this at our next meeting. Thank you so much for the help!

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26 minutes ago, Guest Who's Coming to Dinner said:

Why not maneuver your way into the last (or nearly last) speaker position at every city committee meeting, then correct any foregoing misrepresentation if necessary or yield back your time if not?

I agree.  That is a tactic that several of my political activist friends and I use at city council meetings.  We find a way to see to it that one of us is last or near last on the sign-in sheet if signing in is necessary.  If signing in isn't necessary, we just wait until it appears everyone else has spoken  or until we hear someone else say something that we want to rebut. Even if you have signed in to speak, you can always "pass" when they call your name.

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