SB Council discusses meeting procedures

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After lengthy discussion of proposed meeting procedures, the Seal Beach Council voted 5-0 on Monday, Oct. 12, to use Robert’s Rules of Order as the basis for any procedure not covered by the city charter, council policy or state law. Other issues related to meeting procedures will come back to the council at a future date.

The subject of meeting procedures first came to the council at the agency’s Sept. 28 meeting. At that time, Councilman Gary Miller objected to several of the proposed changes on the grounds they were too complicated and insulated the city manager from criticism. At that meeting, he asked for a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order.

At the Oct. 12 meeting, he said Robert’s Rules of Order was a two-inch thick book and not a practical guide.

In a Sept. 28 letter to the council, Hazelnut Avenue resident Jennifer Lentz Snyder expressed concern that several of the proposed procedures conferred “all authority to the city manager.”

She specifically addressed a statement in the procedure policy that said the sole place to review the city manager’s performance was in closed session. Her written comments echoed verbal remarks made by Miller on Sept. 28, who said the public was allowed to comment on his performance.

Dr. Robert Goldberg, who speaks at nearly every council meeting, presented his concerns about the proposed procedures. He argued that under “order of business,” a council member would need the consent of the majority in order for an item to be placed on a future agenda. “As proposed, this section would create a ‘catch-22’ since obtaining the consent of the majority may require discussion of the matter, which is prohibited because the matter is not on the current agenda.”

Goldberg also said that a proposed prohibition from attacking another person’s motives appeared to violate free speech rights.

Goldberg said a proposal to allow the mayor to deny a request from a member of the public to pull an item from the Consent Calendar would violate the public’s right to speak to an issue. Goldberg suggested codifying the current practice of allowing members of the public to pull items.

Mayor Gordon Shanks said he agreed with many of Goldberg’s points. Speaking to Councilman Miller, however, he said that procedures, such as making motions, had to be based on something and in parliamentary procedure, Robert’s Rules of Order was that basis.

Miller said if Shanks wanted to use one of the Robert’s Rules, why not just add that rule to the meeting procedures?

Councilman Charles Antos also said he wanted to keep Robert’s Rules of Order.

After all the discussion, the vote to keep Robert’s Rules of Order was unanimous.

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