Lost the vote? Don’t sabotage the council’s action

We’ve had inquiries recently about elected officials who lost a vote, and then actively worked against the outcome. This amounts to trying to sabotage the council. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. Download PDF The majority rules General Henry Martyn Robert, the original author of Robert’s Rules of Order, expresses it this way: The great lesson…

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Are your meetings seven hours long?

This strange time of COVID-19 is producing some strange situations. We hear reports of local government meetings lasting far into the night, in some cases taking as long as 7 hours. (See this article about San Jose California). Does this happen to you? Are your meetings too long? If yes, what can be done to…

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When public pressure is intense, what can you do?

At a recent workshop, a director from a school board split by pandemic-related decisions asked me what board members can do in the face of intense public pressure. These are tough times for local non-partisan government bodies, for sure. Here are some thoughts about what can be done. Download PDF Listen to your constituents, while…

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When should the clerk speak up?

The clerk of a local government meeting or the secretary on a nonprofit board has a high calling. Under Robert’s Rules, two persons must be present for a valid meeting: the chair and the secretary. They cannot be the same person, and state law often specifies this as well. The clerk or secretary keeps the…

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When First Amendment Rights and Public Meetings Clash

MRSC has graciously given permission for us to republish this helpful article. MRSC is a private nonprofit organization, formerly known as “Municipal Resources and Service Center,” serving local governments in Washington State.  Read more of their articles here. Jurassic Parliament articles on this topic are listed below. Most governing bodies of cities, towns, counties, and…

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No debate at all—legitimate, but unwise

A citizen rang me up in some concern about the way his city council had processed a big motion the night before. The land-use proposal was introduced and seconded, a member was recognized to debate, and that member immediately said, “I call the question.” Five of the seven members on the council voted in favor…

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Tips for government bodies meeting remotely

The big moment is here. You’ve done your due diligence by: reviewing any emergency declarations affecting local government meetings in your state, studying how your body can proceed in light of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency, planning with your staff, consulting your attorney, and choosing an online platform. You’re all set to launch your first totally remote…

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Conflict of interest can be complicated

The basic principle underlying conflict of interest is easy to state but applying it in real-life cases can be complicated. In a nutshell, when you accept a position on a local government body or a nonprofit board, you are obliged to put the interests of the organization above your own personal interest, and you can’t…

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Criticizing a board decision in public

It is a basic principle of parliamentary procedure that the decision of the majority, voting at a properly called meeting, is the decision of the body as a whole. The members whose views did not prevail are bound to go along with the majority. This goes back deep in time, to the origins of our…

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Control disorder in your chambers

Local governments face a tough climate these days. Customs of courtesy have faded and people are often both passionate and rude about their issues. If you are a mayor or presiding officer of a public body, it is critical that you control disorder in your chambers. Council meetings are meetings of the council The basic…

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