Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We Don't Want No Stinkin' Rules

Well, it seems that the BOS not only admits that there are no written rules for the hearings and decision making process, but they affirmatively do not want any. So where does that leave us? There is no way for anyone appearing before the BOS to know the procedures for addressing their issues, because the BOS wants “flexibility”—another name for the ability to be arbitrary and capricious. The major problem with this is that the Constitution does not permit a BOS to act in an arbitrary and capricious manner in deciding matters that could deprive citizens of their property.

Take, for example, the dog hearing where Duphily—in the middle of the hearing--stated her preference to put the dog down. Rogers immediately asked if that was a motion, and it was seconded. Rogers was simply frustrated, and wanted the hearing over, and the motion that he prompted essentially ended debate by the dog owner. Under Robert’s Rules, or whatever parliamentary procedure the BOS has followed to date, a motion is not permitted until the hearing is closed. This allows all evidence and debate to come in first and come to a conclusion, before any motion is made. Here, without rules, Rogers has the ability to simply cut off the debate (because he is bored), and jam a motion forward to the detriment of the citizen’s right to debate or offer more evidence.

Due process of law is to protect the citizens—not the BOS. It is intended to force the governing body to have a set of rules that everyone can access, and to which everyone can refer, in order to hold the BOS to the fairness standard. So, when the BOS says they don’t need no stinking rules, they are really saying we run the meeting the way we want, and there is nothing that you can do to challenge that.

As to Charlie Cristello, I am surprised that he would support the lack of ANY rules to govern the BOS and its decision making process. I know that Harvard is a liberal hotbed for anarchy, but to say he doesn’t know of any Selectmen who have adopted Robert’s Rules is simply to admit that he did not go online and do his research.

Al, didn’t they have rules at the fortune 500 or fortune 100 companies where you worked. Seems to me that lack of rules yields chaos, and that chaos yields losses.

To contradict Charlie, keeping mind that various BOSs do adopt written rules, such as Billerica has adopted Robert’s Rules for their Selectmen, and states that their bylaws can override the mandates of Robert’s Rules. They wrote some rules and adopted Robert’s Rules—and all of them can be found in writing by the citizens. Nantucket prominently notes on a document called “Board of Selectmen Agenda Protocol: Robert’s Rules. The Board of Selectmen follows Robert’s Rules of Order to govern its meetings as per the Town Code and Charter.” Medway actually uses Robert’s Rules in a more limited fashion (i.e., in order to maintain more flexibility), and states that “Robert’s Rules of Order is used a a guide in matters requiring clarification of definition.” Just as an interesting side note, the Bylaws of the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association also designates Robert’s Rules of Order as the guide for all meetings.

So Charlie, what is it? You don’t like people to know how the game is played before they appear before the BOS? You always said you want to put together policies and procedures that are available to the public for guidance. Why not start here and make the BOS conform to constitutional mandates?

And just one more bone to pick with you Charlie…how can the TM be “drafting” the contract of employment for anyone in Town (as reported in the Enterprise), when the Town Charter expressly states that:

"Town Counsel SHALL draft all...conveyances and other legal instruments..." Town Charter, Legal Affairs.

We had this problem with Jack before you, where he drafted all kinds of documents, and (in my opinion) screwed them up at great cost to Middleborough. You have DM and you have LP, use them for drafting and follow the Charter—or do we not follow that set of rules either.


Anonymous said...

A new Town Manager & new faces on the board....

the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anonymous said...

If they don't understand the rules, the rules are too complicated, and they haven't read the rules, how can we be operating under Robert's Rules? These people are just useless and don't even listen to themselves speak. Ridiculous!

Middleboro Review said...

If I'm not mistaken, the vote was taken by the BOS without calling for public comment and concluding the hearing and a member of the audience stepped to the podium and asked to read a letter from a neighbor who had witnessed the dog attack and was unable to attend the meeting.

Pardon any error in my recollection. Although I retain tapes of BOS meetings since the meeting minutes are frequently creative writing versions of actual events, the reruns are not an improvement!

Although the letter affirmed the BOS decision, what if it had not? Audience comments were never called for and what if, hypothetically, there had been an audience filled with people who praised the dog and blamed the horse?

The personal experience of Mrs. Duphily, while tragic and emotionally charged, should not govern legal action by the BOS. (I spoke with her mother at the time and know just how devastating it was for the family.)

For some, it's easy to dismiss the poor conduct of the meetings, but it is getting progressively worse if one pays attention to a bored Board that never valued debate, input or rules.