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Ad hominem attack; rebutted by member of the public


Guest Elizabeth
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I am fairly new to Robert's Rules and I can't seem to find an answer on this. Our local city council uses Robert's Rules but I'm not sure how to address what occurred the other night. 

There was a public speaking portion, four members of the public spoke. After the public speaking portion, the council President decided to address two of the speakers before getting into the agenda setting that the meeting was intended for. He immediately engaged in ad hominem attacks, calling one a liar and accused the other of misrepresenting facts. One of them spoke up, attempting to defend themself from this, was warned and fell silent, then was attacked again and spoke up again and was removed from the meeting. 

Technically, the member of the public didn't have the right to speak then, but the council President also was disrupting and delaying the meeting to dress down and, on the record, label these two citizens as liars. From what I understand, the President's speech would be considered out of order anyway? 

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At a minimum a member of the City Council should have called the President to order and be prepared to Appeal an adverse ruling (which is likely since it was the President himself who was misbehaving) and taking disciplinary action against him might not be out of line either.  In addition the member(s) of the public who were attacked should look into what sort of actions they can take against the President and Council for having their character publicly maligned.

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The council had better hope that the persons attacked by the president do not realize that they may have a legal case against the council for violating their First Amendment rights, and other reasons, depending on the details, of course.

I am not a lawyer, and the above is not legal advice.  It is merely a suggestion of something the council may wish to hope.

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On 9/4/2019 at 7:47 PM, Guest Elizabeth said:

I am fairly new to Robert's Rules and I can't seem to find an answer on this. Our local city council uses Robert's Rules but I'm not sure how to address what occurred the other night. 

There was a public speaking portion, four members of the public spoke. After the public speaking portion, the council President decided to address two of the speakers before getting into the agenda setting that the meeting was intended for. He immediately engaged in ad hominem attacks, calling one a liar and accused the other of misrepresenting facts. One of them spoke up, attempting to defend themself from this, was warned and fell silent, then was attacked again and spoke up again and was removed from the meeting. 

Technically, the member of the public didn't have the right to speak then, but the council President also was disrupting and delaying the meeting to dress down and, on the record, label these two citizens as liars. From what I understand, the President's speech would be considered out of order anyway? 

Technically, the rules of decorum in RONR only prohibit attacks against other members, not against nonmembers.

The council President’s comments may well have been out of order based upon something in the council’s rules. Perhaps they prohibit personal attacks against the public, or prohibit council members from speaking during public moment, or whatever. There may also be legal issues - it would likely be prudent for the council to consult its attorney. Finally, it would seem unwise for an elected official to publicly attack members of the electorate.

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