Maggie adopts new meeting rules

By Jessi Stone | Jan 15, 2014

Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen unanimously adopted new rules of procedure on Monday in hopes of conducting more civilized board meetings.

The resolution adopted included 15 rules outlining how the board should conduct meetings, prep for meetings, disseminate agendas and interact with each other and the public during meetings.

Meetings in Maggie have gotten out of hand in the past when the board is been faced with a controversial issue. Residents in the audience have been known to shout things out without being recognized, board members have engaged in debate with residents and residents have been given unlimited time to speak during the public input portion of the meetings.

“The point of these rules is to have decorum, not to stop people from speaking,” said Mayor Ron DeSimone, who drafted the resolution.

Adopting new meeting rules was also a priority for newly elected aldermen Mike Eveland and Janet Banks.

The rules state that the board shall hold an agenda-setting meeting no less that five days before its regular board meeting; any board member or the manager may add an item to the proposed agenda but a board majority will set the final agenda and the mayor has discretion to add items to the agenda before the regular meeting date.

Alderman Phillip Wight said he had an issue with the wording of some of the rules, including adding items to the agenda after the agenda was set. He said the point of setting the agenda ahead of time was to give the board time to research an issue before the meeting and to give the public an opportunity to speak on the issue.

In a compromise, Eveland suggested that last-minute items can be proposed for the agenda at the beginning of the meeting and the board can vote on whether to add them.

“If it’s something we need more time on, we can just say no,” he said.

The new procedure stipulates that people wishing to be placed on the agenda for a presentation must speak to the town manager and are limited to 10 minutes during the meeting.

The mayor will have the discretion to allow for extended time and also to adjust the order of the agenda items to maintain order or accommodate someone’s schedule.

Public comment will be allowed during at least one meeting per month and each person will be allowed three minutes to speak.

“Anytime we have a meetings, I’d like it to be more open to public comment,” Wight said.

DeSimone said public comment would be allowed when necessary but shouldn’t be allowed at every single meeting — which includes agenda setting, workshops and special-called meetings.

“We’ve never denied someone from public comment,” he said.

Rule No. 13 states that the board will not participate in debate or open discussion with anyone without being officially recognized by the mayor. DeSimone said one of the issues during meetings is that people will yell out something from the audience and aldermen engage them, which creates chaos sometimes.

“We end up with a gang debate and it’s hard to conduct traffic that way,” he said.

Town Attorney Chuck Dickson said the board had already adopted a simplified version of Robert’s Rules of Order, which states that no one can speak without first being recognized by the mayor.

According to the new rules, anyone who makes unsubstantiated accusations, personal attacks, engages in name calling, or uses foul language will be deemed out of order and may be asked to leave the meeting. A police escort will remove anyone refusing to leave or who otherwise disrupts the meeting from the meeting room.

With a few minor changes from board members, the board unanimously approved the resolution.

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