YARMOUTH — The Town Council has unanimously enacted new rules of conduct after months of discussions sparked by a contentious debate last summer over an anti-racism resolution.

The council started discussing its conduct rules after some members presented a resolution last August condemning racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Councilors ultimately passed a resolution saying the town rejects hateful speech and violent actions directed at any person because of his or her race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and/or national origin.

But some councilors criticized the process and disagreed about the specific language, and the debate angered some councilors and residents.

The new rules stipulate that, when posting on official town-related social media platforms, councilors should adhere to the “highest ethical standards,” allow the post to be accessible to the public, treat online comments equally unless they are “abusive, threatening, obscene or libelous,” and avoid disparaging remarks about fellow councilors.

In addition, while posting from private accounts, councilors should make it known that the opinions posted are theirs only and in no way reflect the views or feelings of the council as a whole.


Conflicts of interest are also addressed in the policy, which specifies circumstances in which conflict may arise: when a matter has a direct financial benefit or detriment to the councilor or a family member, employer or family member’s employer, or to an outside organization in which the councilor holds a leadership position.

In order to avoid a potential appearance of a conflict of interest, councilors should disclose the relevant information or abstain from a discussion or vote, the rules say.

The rules go on to specify the process for how citizens should be appointed to various committees, subcommittees and task forces under the council, and how items should be added to workshop agendas before being moved to a voting meeting.

A recall provision – which would be part of the Town Charter rather than council rules, and would have to be ratified by a voter referendum – was introduced during a workshop Feb. 1 and remains under discussion.

A petition calling on councilors to endorse a code of conduct and ethics, and to create a process for voters to recall elected officials, circulated last fall. However, it did not come before the council until January.

In compliance with new council rules that require an agenda item to be introduced at a workshop and then discussed further at a following workshop before being put to a vote, a recall provision could be discussed in a workshop on Thursday.


Jocelyn Van Saun can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 183 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: JocelynVanSaun

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