Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Councilmember badgers the staff

© CanStock Photo/andrewgenn

Dear Dinosaur: One of our councilmembers puts question after question after question to the staff at meetings. Sometimes our meetings are five hours long! What can be done about this?

Answer: This certainly can be a problem! We suggest that you discuss the matter with the council chair, mayor, and/or city manager, and see if they would support establishing a policy. If they are in favor, then you can propose a policy to the council as a whole. Here is some suggested language:

In order to make the best use of Council time at meetings, Councilmembers are requested to send their questions about details of agenda items to the City Manager as soon as possible after receipt of the agenda packet. The City Manager will endeavor to prepare responses before the meeting when time permits, and will share any responses via email with all Councilmembers. At meetings, Councilmembers may put additional questions on a given agenda item to the staff. The total time allotted to each Councilmember for questions and answers on a given topic will be 10 minutes.

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific issues, seek a qualified authority.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.

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