City Council adopts revised rules of procedure

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Franklin’s City Council voted 6-1 on Monday to approve two additions to its rules of procedure for meetings.

The first requires council members to vote “aye” or “nay” when a question has been called, and only allows abstentions for reasons of absence or a declared conflict of interest. The second states that, “Because members of council have the opportunity to speak on various subjects in their capacity as a member of council and from the dais, members of council should not speak at the citizens’ podium during citizens’ time.”

Mayor Frank Rabil had proposed both rules during the council’s biennial organizational meeting on July 9. The now-approved additions will be added to the council’s existing rules, adopted on July 11, 2011. These state that:

• The general discussion prior to a motion being made is to be limited to two minutes per member of council

• Discussion during a presentation shall be limited to two questions or comments totaling five minutes.

• Once a motion is made, each member of council is limited to one comment or question period consisting of five minutes.

• After all members of Council have had a chance to participate in the questions and answers, each member is then allowed an additional three-minute rebuttal period to respond to fellow council member’s comments.

• No questions or comments are allowed during citizens’ time.

The dissenting vote came from Ward 3 Councilman Greg McLemore, who said he felt that the new rules targeted him personally. McLemore has, on more than one occasion, stepped down from his seat on the council dais and addressed his fellow council members during citizens’ time. He also regularly abstains from votes.

“We are all citizens prior to our election… I don’t see why this council should take the rights of a citizen because they have agreed to serve on this council,” McLemore said.

McLemore added that he intended to continue to not vote if he felt he did not have sufficient information on a matter, and implied that he might take legal action against the city via the American Civil Liberties Union if the new rules were adopted.

Rabil said he felt the prohibition on council members stepping down from the dais to speak during citizens’ time was more of a clarification of the council’s existing rule that “no questions or comments [from council] are allowed during citizens’ time” rather than a new rule.

Ward 4 Councilman Linwood Johnson said he did not feel that the revisions to the rules were singling out anybody, and said that he felt the council had a right to develop procedures for having a productive meeting.

“I see nothing wrong with the procedures… it gives you enough time to do what’s needed, to address anything that’s needed, and if you can’t do it in that time, you don’t need to be doing it,” Johnson said.

Following the vote, McLemore accused the other council members of being liars and corrupt, and then exited the council chamber.

In other business, City Manager R. Randy Martin announced that the state grant application for the riverwalk park had been compiled for submission to the state for Phase 1 of the previously reviewed site plan. The application was delivered on July 19, and includes matching funds from the Garden Club.

Martin also announced that the electric utility meter reading and billing assessment consultant would be on-site next week to complete the final steps in preparing a report to the council, which is planned to be available in August.

The council concluded by going into closed session to discuss appointments to boards and commissions and performance evaluations of employees.