AUGUSTA — At-Large Councilor Dale McCormick is proposing to require the council to follow Robert’s Rules of Order during meetings, so everyone knows and plays by the same rules.
However, other city officials said the council already has established rules of procedure in the city charter.
McCormick said the city does not use Robert’s Rules of Order, which are rules for the conduct of public meetings and commonly used at annual Town Meetings. They include rules for making motions, taking votes and determining how debate should be conducted.
She said the city charter requires the city council to adopt rules of procedure, but the council has not done so. She said the council and Mayor David Rollins, who as mayor oversees the conduct of meetings, generally follow procedures that are similar to Robert’s Rules, but are not the same and not always.
“We sort of follow them, or our impression of them, but since they’re not stated as our adopted rules and procedures, I think they can be ignored when someone wants to,” McCormick said of her proposal. “That makes for a weak council and doesn’t serve Augusta well. I think it is important we have stated rules everyone knows and can rely on.”
However, City Manager William Bridgeo and City Attorney Stephen Langsdorf said the city already has established rules of procedure for the council to follow, and those are stated in the city charter.
“The city charter has got quite an expansive set of rules of procedure,” Bridgeo said. “That’s what we’ve operated under for decades.”
McCormick said she finds the rules the city has now for the conduct of meetings to be confusing and said people aren’t as familiar with them as they would be with Robert’s Rules of Order. She said having clearly established rules would allow meetings to move along faster and be more streamlined, and it would be easier to make sure meetings are conducted following the rules.
McCormick, whose term on the council ends this year and who did not seek re-election, has clashed with Rollins previously over the procedure for recognizing speakers and the general meeting procedure at council meetings.
McCormick said regardless of who is mayor, she thinks having rules everyone knows and heeds would improve the conduct of council meetings.
“I think our meetings could be streamlined,” she said. “You want everybody to be heard in a meeting, and having rules is a way of having that happen. It doesn’t matter who the mayor is. I’m really focusing on the empowerment of the council to better represent the citizens of Augusta.”
Langsdorf, in an email to city councilors, said the council already adopted specific rules of procedure, which are contained in the city charter. He said the rules in the charter now were adopted as an ordinance, so McCormick’s proposal to enact an order to change them is not the proper procedure.
Council proposals are generally adopted as either orders, which require only a single reading and vote, or ordinances, which require at least two readings and public hearings.
McCormick’s proposed order states that in cases where there is a disagreement between Robert’s Rules and the city charter, the charter shall take precedence.
Councilors meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.
Councilors are also scheduled to:
• recognize Shawn Harrington, lead mechanic for Augusta Public Works, upon his retirement following 33 years of service to the city;
• consider approving a yard sale ordinance which would limit such sales to three days in duration and a maximum of six per year;
• consider approving a Complete Streets policy;
• consider authorizing the transfer of funds seized as part of drug investigations to the police department to be spent on law enforcement related items;
• and consider the first reading of two required readings of a proposed, 180-day moratorium banning the establishment of marijuana retail stores or marijuana social clubs in Augusta.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647