Council members’ comment time is now limited
By Megan Kelley
LAKE ORION — On Monday, the Lake Orion Village Council approved amendments to its rules of procedure by a vote of 5-2, with council members Michael Lamb and Nancy Moshier casting the two dissenting votes.
Reviewing council rules of procedure has been a bit of a rocky road with a committee being formed in early February consisting of Council President Pro-Tem Teresa Rutt, Councilmember Nancy Moshier and former Councilmember Sarah Luchsinger. The committee was intended to review the current rules of procedure and recommend changes to the council.
During the council’s meeting on July 10, Rutt provided a draft of potential changes to the council rules of procedure and emphasized the process by which it was created.
“The committee was created, we met one time, with one council member not able to attend. After that, based on comments, I typed up a draft of it and I sent it out to the committee. I never received any comments back on the draft of the rules of procedure that I sent out,” Rutt said at the July 10 meeting. “Subsequently, Councilmember Sarah Luchsinger resigned and there was also – it was a meeting I was not at – but as I watched it, there was also a comment from the remaining member that said she didn’t even want to be on the committee anymore, and at that point I turned over the draft rules of procedure to village administration since we weren’t moving forward and I hadn’t received any comments on anything.”
The draft that was given to village administration was then sent to the village attorney, who reviewed it and signed off on it.
There are several changes to conduct in meetings, disorderly conduct and agenda preparation.
Moreover, rules that have already been being enforced have been officially adopted in several areas, including notification of meetings and public participation.
Highlights include time allotted to council members for speaking during council debate, which now allows council members to speak no longer than five minutes the first time and three minutes the second time.
Additionally, while previously the council chairperson could only call a person out of order, language was added to allow both the chair and any other council member to call someone out of order.
Another change allows only the village manager to direct or issue requests of village consultants (attorney, planner and engineer) and department heads. However, the change also allows only the council president and president pro-tem to initiate contact with the village attorney.
According to Rutt, this change was made in conjunction with the current village charter. It does allow council members to make general inquiries to department heads, but they cannot issue directions to those department heads.
Councilmember Michael Lamb questioned the legality of the proposed amendments, specifically citing the time limit on council debate which he said was in violation of his freedom of speech. Lamb also raised concern about “granting special powers to the president and president pro-tem.”
“I don’t know what your intention is, I really don’t. But I don’t know if that’s legal,” Lamb said.
Both Rutt and council President Jerry Narsh stated that the attorney did clarify that the proposed amendments were lawful under village charter.
“There is no ill will or intention. There are times I get called by the attorney on a question where Mr. McClary (village manager) is not available,” Narsh said. “A lot of it is just simply in the absence of the manager. I haven’t spoke to the attorney in a very long time.”
There was a bit of discussion regarding public comment rules, especially when it came to whether or not written comments would be read into the record. The council decided not to include anything that would ensure comments were read into the record, instead, the line stayed the same, stating that submitted written comments would be received and filed by council at its next meeting.
Public participation rules also included things like all comments must be addressed to the chair and kept to four minutes.
The now official rules also state that the council will not engage in debate or respond to speakers during public comment.