FLORENCE — After its Nov. 3 meeting became bogged down in confusion over rules, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors is considering an expanded set of those for conducting meetings.
Chris Keller, chief civil deputy county attorney, proposed a four-page set of rules Wednesday, which, if adopted, would replace the one page used in recent years. The new rules, like the old ones, still incorporate some of the widely used “Robert’s Rules of Order.”
Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said he believes “Robert’s Rules” sometimes interfere with the flow, but “what happened at our last meeting, I don’t want to see happen again, quite honestly. And there are a lot of things that I personally can do differently to keep some good order moving forward.”
After taking time to study the new rules and suggest changes, the board may adopt them at a future meeting.
Keller said only a few other Arizona counties have official meeting rules, and the County Supervisors Association for Arizona couldn’t provide much guidance. The Arizona League of Cities and Towns recommends adopting procedures for conducting meetings but notes “Robert’s Rules” weren’t designed for city and town councils.
Keller said he attempted to borrow best practices from other counties and cities. He looked at cities as different as Florence and Chicago, and others in Oregon, Colorado and Texas. “It’s more of an art than it is a science of how you want to conduct your meetings,” he said.
The Nov. 3 meeting was held up for clarification of the rules for a second time after a supervisor commented that he didn’t vote. The new proposed rules say all members must vote “aye” or “nay,” unless they have previously submitted a written declaration of their conflict of interest.
After having done so, the member shall refrain from participating on that item “in any manner,” including discussion, debate and closed-door discussion.
The new proposed rules curtail a supervisor’s “point of personal privilege” to make a comment that may not specifically be on the agenda and may violate open meeting law. The new rule says a supervisor may respond to personal criticism; ask that noise or uncomfortable room temperature be corrected; recognize a dignitary in attendance; or note the death of an individual.
The board suspended its rules early in the Nov. 3 meeting and didn’t reinstate them for almost an hour. The new proposal allows for suspending the rules as needed for a certain action. But the motion “suspends only those rules which specifically interfere” with the action, and the rules are automatically reactivated afterward.
Further, to make the issue simpler, “A motion to suspend the rules is not debatable and not amendable.”
Citizens speaking at the board’s “call to the public” typically have three minutes each for their statements, but Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, cut the time to one minute on Nov. 3, presumably due to the number of speakers. Keller told the board Wednesday that some other boards allow three minutes, others just one minute. Some limit all public comment to a maximum of 30 minutes.
The new proposal says the chair has the authority to limit or suspend public comment, “but shall provide an explanation for the membership. The decision shall not be appealable.”
Citizens in attendance are required to follow proper decorum and good conduct. Those who persist in inappropriate statements or conduct “may be removed at the discretion of the chairperson.” Unruly audience responses “may be grounds for removal.”
Also in the proposed rules:
- “The chairperson shall have the authority to limit the time for debate on any topic or item by a member but not the ability to eliminate debate. The chairperson shall make every effort to not allow debate to digress to personal attacks. It should be emphasized it is not the person, but the measure, issue or item under question that is the subject of debate. In the same spirit, other board members should not disparage each other, county employees or presenters.”
- No member may interrupt another except to raise a “point of order” or to correct a mistake. A “point of order” must be timely and is proper when a member believes the discussion is in error or irrelevant to the issue. A point of order does not require a second and the chairperson’s decision on it prevails unless an appeal is made.
- No member shall indulge in personal attacks, impugn the motives of others or “use language tending to hold a member up to contempt.”