Gladewater council rules it needs rules

Gladewater City Councilman Kevin Clark outlines his thinking on the need to adopt guidelines similar to Robert’s Rules of Order for city meetings.

Gladewater council members spent a good portion of their July 20 session talking about rules of order, and the dialogue soon proved the need for some form of guidelines to streamline discussion.
It likely won’t be Robert’s Rules of Order – if there was anything the elected officials could agree on last week, it was that the minutiae of that standard guide to parliamentary procedure is probably more than Gladewater’s dais needs.
Rather, council members established a committee (eventually) to review what the body is currently doing, to see what can be improved and to codify it enough for a vote.
“Let’s put something back in front of the council that we can talk about,” councilman Kevin Clark said. “If we put down what we do and what we do well on a piece of paper, I think that would suffice.”
Clark brought the topic for council discussion at their regular meeting for July, following up after he missed a previous meeting and watched it via the Gladewater Mirror’s livestream on Facebook. That outside perspective revealed the need for established procedures, he said.
It’s not the first time council members have debated adopting Robert’s Rules as a meeting guide – about 15 years ago, a similar discussion went nowhere.
“We do, oddly enough, follow quite a bit of Robert’s Rules,” Clark added, bettering it in some ways. That said, “Nothing that we do is written down. It does seem that we can make a codified version of Robert’s Rules that fits us.
Acknowledging the minutiae of parliamentary procedure is rife for abuse by bad actors, “I don’t want to be like Congress. I do think we need a set of rules that we can adhere to. I would like to have them written.”
Council member Rocky Hawkins agrees.
“It would make our job a lot easier if somebody had something to refer to,” he said.
According to Gladewater City Manager Charlie Smith, as a home rule city, the council members can adopt whatever procedures they want.
“This would be really beneficial for on-boarding new council members,” councilwoman Brandy Flanagan said. “I would have to say that it needs to be very simple.”
Previously, Mayor Scott Owens noted, past council members adopted an ordinance to regulate how items are added to the agenda. Previous officials declined to adopt Robert’s Rules for the sake of not getting bogged down.
“Those rules of order do need to be adhered to in generalities,” he said. “The most important thing, I believe, is that every voice needs to be heard. We do not need to speak over each other, that everybody has a chance to speak, to offer rebuttal on things…”
For council member Teddy Sorrells, that’s why such procedures exist – to ensure every person has an equal opportunity to weigh in. The Texas Open Meetings Act has some provisions and regulations, he added, but Robert’s Rules of Order is the standard for a reason.
“We’ve been in a number of discussion where Robert’s Rules would have settled some issues that we didn’t get settled and we’re still having conversations about them,” Sorrells said. “I feel like it is very important for us as a council to have rules in place so that we can be able to do our business and every council member has an opportunity to discuss and engage in that business.”
Ultimately, after rounds of discussion, the council members approved a new rules committee chaired by Sorrells and including Flanagan, Owens and Hawkins who will bring back proposed rules at a later date.

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