Decorum still not for Wapella board trustees


“This is just a set of rules, I’m not saying it has to go like this.”

- Sherry Mears

Wapella village board president

CLINTON — A second attempt by village board president Sherry Mears to establish rules of decorum for village trustees failed in a tie vote Tuesday.

Mears tried in May to get the board to vote to accept the rules as a way of conducting its meetings, but none of the trustees present would offer a motion to move the issue forward.

Mears offered a modified form of the ordinance Tuesday, and while it did advance to the voting stage, support from trustees was not enthusiastic.

“I know since the last time I brought this up Section 1 has been changed in, and that was a problem with some people,” Mears told trustees.  “And this is Roberts’ Rules of Order.”

The DeWitt County Board and Clinton City Council practice Roberts’ Rules in most of their functions.  Essentially, the rules, require trustees to be recognized by the board president or mayor before speaking.  Rules also are intended to eliminate private discussions between board members during meetings.

Rules also prohibit the use of denigrating remarks or vulgar language during board discussion or debate.

The impression often is that the rules are rigid, but most local elected bodies manage to make the procedures work.  

In county board meetings, members address the chairman as “Mr. Chairman,” and he in turn addresses them as “Mr.,” or “Mrs.”  The rules are meant to ensure a level of civility even during heated debate, but it does not limit debate or discussion.  It can also give individual members the right to call for a vote when they feel sufficient discussion has taken place.

A long pause followed Mears’ request for a motion Tuesday, as trustees Nancy Falk, Tracy Mann and Michael Daab read the proposed ordinance.

“So, how do you propose we be recognized,” asked Falk.  “Do we raise our hand?”

“This is just a set of rules, I’m not saying it has to go like this,” Mears said.  “This is just when it gets out of hand.”

Rules of decorum, once boards adopt them, function as a method of procedure for meetings that apply whatever the circumstances.  The county board, for example, tends to follow the same procedures at all its meetings.

The village attorney acknowledged the rules were the accepted parliamentary practice.

Trustee Tracy Mann said that, while he wasn’t necessarily against the ordinance he did not feel it was necessary for a small board.

“I could see this if we had 30 members,” he said.

The county board has 12 members, including the chairman; the Clinton City Council has five members, including the mayor.

“I move that we vote to accept this in those instances when we need …someone to guide us,” Falk said.

Falk and Mears voted to accept the ordinance, while Mann and Daab voted against the measure.