Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules!
I caught the article on AccessNorthGa concerning the commission meeting last night. The 3 issues that they reported about ended in split votes with a 2-2 vote (meeting minutes) and two 3-1 votes. It was the vote to suspend the rules that caught my eye.
As I talked about before County Code 2.10.010 says; “Robert’s Rules of Order are implemented as the official rules governing all meetings of the board of commissioners of the county.” This does not mean, however, that Robert’s Rules supersede the code or law.
Commissioner Gibbs, Powell and the Chairman may have violated county code and therefore their oath of office by using a Robert’s Rules tactic of “Suspending the Rules”. “In parliamentary procedure, suspension of the rules is a procedure in which a deliberative assembly sets aside its normal rules of order in order to do something that it could not do otherwise (cite)” The problem is that you cannot set aside the law which says that you are using Robert’s Rules. This creates a predicament.
Can the commission set aside a law that it doesn’t like to get something done? Can the commission now violate state law if they set aside the rules? It looks to me that ammunition was provided to someone that may want to challenge any issues that came up after the rules were suspended.
There are a couple of authorities on parliamentary procedures with Robert’s Rules being one of them. I like the way it is stated in Demeter’s Manual, “Bylaws cannot be suspended even by unanimous vote. But sometimes circumstances, expediency or strong assembly determination in behalf of a cause or proposition make violations necessary. In all such cases of violations, the action taken is illegal per se; but if no one objects at the time, or never challenges it at any time thereafter, a violation never challenged is never a violation. (pp.113)”
While I doubt that there will be a legal challenge, I must wonder about the integrity of a body that refuses to use the rules it places on itself. Should we expect to see them place aside their ethics code if it becomes inconvenient? I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
Hugh Hall County Akston