TC13-07

Updated April 11, 2013: Addendum added to the end of the staff report to reflect the documents council should amend if they choose to adopt the committee’s recommendation.



STAFF REPORT

Operations Committee, April 4, 2013

 

Use of Technology to Enhance Town of Cary Public Meetings (TC13-07)

Request for council to approve (1) Option 3-A (as outlined herein) and revisions to Policy 150 allowing appointed board members and the public to participate electronically in certain meetings of appointed Town groups, and (2) housekeeping changes to Policy 143, Town Council Rules of Procedures Policy, pertaining to council’s limited electronic participation in town council meetings and work sessions Speakers:  Ms. Sue Rowland, Ms. Susan Moran

 

From:  Sue Rowland, Town Clerk, and Susan Moran, Public Information Director

Prepared by:  Sue Rowland, Town Clerk; Susan Moran, Public Information Director

Approved by:  Benjamin T. Shivar, Town Manager

Approved by:  Michael J. Bajorek, Assistant Town Manager

 

Executive Summary:  Staff requests that council approve (1) Option 3-A (as outlined herein) and revisions to Policy 150 allowing appointed board members and the public to participate electronically in certain meetings of appointed Town groups, and (2) housekeeping changes to Policy 143, Town Council Rules of Procedures Policy, pertaining to council’s limited electronic participation in town council meetings and work sessions

 

Background:  There are two chapters in the general statutes that apply to the Town’s authority to have electronic meetings/allow electronic participation in meetings:

 

1.     G.S. 160A (http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/statutes/statutelookup.pl?statute=160a) speaks about town council quorum and voting issues, and in some instances references being “present”. And, in one instance the statute references being “physically present” in the meeting room:

 

§ 160A‑75. Voting.

No member shall be excused from voting except upon matters involving the consideration of the member's own financial interest or official conduct or on matters on which the member is prohibited from voting under G.S. 14‑234, 160A‑381(d), or 160A‑388(e1). In all other cases, a failure to vote by a member who is physically present in the council chamber, or who has withdrawn without being excused by a majority vote of the remaining members present, shall be recorded as an affirmative vote.

 

2.   § 143‑318.13. Electronic meetings; written ballots; acting by reference.

(a) Electronic Meetings. – If a public body holds an official meeting by use of conference telephone or other electronic means, it shall provide a location and means whereby members of the public may listen to the meeting and the notice of the meeting required by this Article shall specify that location. A fee of up to twenty‑five dollars ($25.00) may be charged each such listener to defray in part the cost of providing the necessary location and equipment.

 

Staff at the UNC-CH School of Government (SOG) describes G.S. 160A as enabling legislation, which gives the Town certain authority, and G.S. 143 as regulatory, which gives the Town additional instructions on how we must implement the authority we have if we choose to conduct electronic meetings.

 

G.S. 160A applies only to elected bodies (our Cary Town Council) – not council-appointed boards, committees or task forces. In an abundance of caution and at the advice of SOG attorneys, the Town requires council members to be physically present in the meeting room to be counted for quorum purposes and to vote. The section of the general statutes includes the phrase “physically present”. The Town allows council members who can’t physically be present to participate in council meetings (including work sessions) by electronic means, but they are not counted present for quorum purposes and they do not vote. At the advice of our town attorneys, we do not allow council members to participate electronically in quasi-judicial hearings or closed sessions.

 

The Hyde County Board of Commissioners is the only NC local government with special legislation that allows their elected body to conduct electronic meetings (Session Law 2008-111). Considering the Hyde County geography, it is possible for some members of this elected body to be unable to physically attend meetings (i.e., storm damage to bridges, inoperable ferry systems, etc.). That special legislation includes rules they must follow to conduct electronic meetings.

 

The SOG has two blog posts on this issue. Part 1: http://canons.sog.unc.edu/?p=359, and Part 2: http://canons.sog.unc.edu/?p=430.

 

With all current and past appointed Town groups, the Town has required these groups to conduct traditional meetings. This means there is a physical meeting room, and a quorum of members must be physically present in the meeting room to conduct a meeting (more than ½ of the members). The Town has not allowed members who could not attend to participate by electronic means. The Town’s attendance portion of council-adopted regulations pertaining to appointed groups (Chapter 2 of the Town Code) recognizes that these members are volunteers and may occasionally need to miss a meeting. Appointed members are allowed to miss two meetings in a reporting year. For members missing three or more meetings in a reporting year, Town rules require them to reapply during the application period. It is council’s decision whether they reappoint them to complete the term.

 

The Town has been equitable with council-appointed groups and has treated them the same regarding attendance requirements. In considering this issue, staff believes it is important that council be fair and equitable regarding electronic meetings for appointed groups.  There is also the separate issue of whether the public, not just board members, would be allowed to attend/participate in meetings of these appointed groups via electronic means.

 

Policy Statement 150 is the General Rules of Procedures for council-appointed boards and task forces. This policy does not prohibit electronic meetings or allowing electronic participation in these meetings. A section of this policy reads:

6. Quorum
Unless otherwise set forth in board-specific rules of order or other governing documents, a majority of the board, including the chair but excluding vacant seats, shall constitute a quorum. A majority is more than half of the board. A member who has withdrawn from a meeting without being excused by majority vote of the remaining members present shall be counted as present for purposes of determining a quorum.

The Council’s former technology task force served as a pilot for electronic meetings. For those meetings, all members had the opportunity to fully participate (hear and see) in the meetings electronically, meaning they were counted for quorum purposes and were allowed to vote. Additionally, the Town had certain technology during that trial period that allowed us to open the electronic meetings to the public to participate electronically as well. That trial period has expired, and the Town no longer has this technology available to us. This type of technology is part of the staff’s follow up to the technology task force report, which council will consider as part of the annual budget process. At the present time the Town has access to audio-only (telephone) means to support electronic meetings with a limit of 20 total callers.

 

Council’s Information Services Advisory Board has discussed the possibility of appointed boards conducting electronic meetings. Staff believes the best approach is to address this for all appointed Town groups to ensure consistency and fairness.

 

Discussion: 

 

Appointed Town Groups

 

Town of Cary staff reached out to other NC local governments to learn if others allow electronic meetings or electronic participation in meetings of their appointed groups. The City of Durham currently allows one of their appointed board members to participate in that group’s meetings electronically for ADA reasons, but they do not have a policy. Based on the responses staff received from our inquiry, staff does not think there is a NC local government organization with a policy addressing this issue or a NC local government that allows their appointed boards and the public to fully participate in the advisory board meetings electronically. Town staff believes this is an opportunity for Cary to be a local government leader with this initiative. This initiative might increase our volunteer pool with the Town, as it may encourage people to serve who are not likely to physically attend meetings at town hall for a variety of reasons. This initiative speaks directly to five of the Town’s eleven statement of values:

 

Of the local governments polled regarding electronic meetings, staff repeatedly heard the same argument against allowing electronic meetings. Those staff feared doing so would lead to these groups violating the Open Meetings Law in that electronic meetings would encourage them to use other methods of illegal simultaneous electronic communication. Town of Cary staff provides orientation to appointed board, committee and task force members, including information about the Open Meetings Law. Based on our orientation program and staff’s frequent reminders to these volunteers about this law, we do not believe allowing electronic meetings will lead to these groups violating the law. In addition to potentially increasing the Town’s volunteer pool, we also believe it may increase citizen access to and participation in Cary’s government. As we do with traditional meetings, with electronic meetings staff will continue to follow the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Law.

 

Below are options for council’s consideration pertaining to electronic participation in the meetings of the Town’s appointed groups. Options 1 through 4 address electronic participation for the appointed members. Options A and B address the public’s electronic participation in these appointed group meetings. The wording is intentionally broad in referring to electronic meetings to allow them to occur today with just a telephone system or in the future with any additional technology council funds. All options apply to all appointed Town groups, except for the Planning and Zoning Board regular meetings, the Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings, any future board who has any quasi-judicial responsibilities, and any group for which staff determines electronic meetings is not viable.  If council approves any electronic participation for its appointed group meetings, then staff will work with those groups to ensure their board-specific rules of order address the pertinent issues found in the Hyde County special legislation.

 

With all options shown below, staff will continue to provide legally required public notice, and post the notice on its website and bulletin board. Staff will also continue to provide a meeting room so any member or anyone from the public may continue to physically attend any of these meetings. Staff will also have the flexibility to determine on a case-by-case basis when it is not appropriate or feasible to allow electronic meetings or electronic participation in appointed group meetings.

 

Options for members of appointed groups to electronically participate in their meetings

 

Option 1:

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, allow appointed members to electronically participate in their meetings. Those members participating electronically are not counted for quorum purposes, and they may not vote. A quorum of the board would be required to be physically present in the room to conduct the meeting.

 

Option 2:

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, allow appointed members to electronically participate in their meetings under certain circumstances. (Certain circumstances would be defined based on council’s direction and may include language to restrict the number of electronic meetings per member per year, to clarify the member must have a valid reason for participating electronically [i.e., out of town travel, etc.]). Member(s) participating electronically would be counted for quorum purposes and allowed to vote.

 

Option 3:

Allow all members the option to electronically participate in their meetings with no advanced notice to the staff liaison and with no special circumstances. The chair, or vice chair or other member designated to serve as chair, and the staff liaison shall be physically present in the room to facilitate the meeting.

 

Option 4:

Do not allow members to participate electronically in their meetings.

 

Options for the public to electronically participate in meetings of appointed groups

 

Option A:

Where members are allowed to participate in their meetings electronically, also allow the public to participate electronically in these meetings. It is the discretion of each appointed group to determine if the public has a designated time to make comments at these meetings, or if the public’s role is to have an opportunity to listen without making comments. 

 

(NOTE: Due to current technology that restricts the Town to 20 electronic participants, with this option the town clerk staff will administer the number of external public participants. This is necessary to ensure we do not create frustration with our public. It would not be acceptable for our public to plan to electronically participate, and not be able to electronically access the meeting because we had exceeded our 20 participants. This will also give us an indication of how popular the electronic meeting option is with our public. If, over time, the requests from the public to participate electronically in meetings exceed the current resources, then council may at that time want to consider other technologies. Again, this staff report does not request funding for any new technologies.) 

 

Option B:

Do not allow the public to electronically participate in meetings of appointed Town groups.

 

Town Council meetings

 

State law requires council members to be physically present at a meeting to be counted towards the quorum and to vote. It is the Town’s policy (Policy 143, Town Council Rules of Procedures) to allow council members to participate electronically in council meetings and work sessions with advanced notice to staff, with the understanding that the elected official who participates electronically may not vote and is not counted towards the quorum. Staff recommends amending this policy to stipulate that two business day’s advanced notice is required for a council member to electronically participate. Currently the policy requires 48 hours advanced notice. Staff further recommends adding language to the policy to stipulate that council members may not participate electronically in any quasi-judicial hearing or closed session, which is consistent with our current practice.

 

Although the Town has technology in place to allow the public to participate electronically in council meetings, it would require additional staff resources to accomplish this. Since this staff report does not require additional Town resources, if council wishes to pursue the idea of electronic public participation in Town Council meetings, then staff recommends council consider bringing forward a council co-sponsored initiative at a future meeting. At that time, the entire council would have the opportunity to weigh in on the council initiative, and if approved by a majority of council, the staff would develop options for council’s consideration.

 

The proposed revisions to the Town Council Rules of Procedures Policy are attached showing staff’s recommendations about council’s electronic participation in council meetings and work sessions.

 

Fiscal Impact: None at the present time; any council direction will be implemented with existing technologies (telephone with a capacity of up to 20 callers). Any future council decision on additional technology will be a separate council decision apart from this direction.

 

Staff Recommendation:   Staff recommends council approve (1) Option 3-A (as outlined herein) and revisions to Policy 150 allowing appointed board members and the public to participate electronically in certain meetings of appointed Town groups, and (2) housekeeping changes to Policy 143, Town Council Rules of Procedures Policy, pertaining to council’s limited electronic participation in town council meetings and work sessions.

POLICY STATEMENT 150

GENERAL RULES OF ORDER FOR TOWN OF CARY BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

AND OTHER GROUPS APPOINTED BY THE TOWN COUNCIL

 

Prepared by:                            Sue Rowland, Town Clerk, and Karen C. Gray, Deputy Town Clerk

Supersedes:                             October 8, 2009 September 6, 2012

Adopted by Council:                September 6, 2012 April 18, 2013

Effective:                                  September 6, 2012 April 18, 2013

 

Purpose:

 

This policy for boards/commissions, committees, task forces and other groups appointed by the Town Council (hereinafter “boards”) establishes the general structure and implements general rules of order for these boards.

 

This policy is not designed to create any additional rights or obligations, nor does it establish any procedural rights to any person that are not already provided for by law.  The failure of any board member to adhere to the recommended procedures described herein shall not affect the validity of any meeting or action taken. To the extent there is conflict or any discrepancy between these rules of order and the North Carolina General Statutes, case law, or Town ordinances (collectively “law”), the law shall prevail.

 

Board Structure:

 

All boards will utilize the following structure.

 

Element A: Purpose and Scope

Element A Goal Statement:  Each board will have a clear, well defined scope of work, life span, responsibilities and measurable outcomes

Element A, Strategy 1:  Each board will have a mission statement.

Element A, Strategy 2:  Each board will have a defined lifespan.

Element A, Strategy 3:  Each board will have a set of clearly identified responsibilities, tasks, deliverables, or work outcomes so that progress towards achieving the board's particular mission can be measured and evaluated.

Element A, Strategy 4:  Any proposed new board shall be established with clear understanding of the board’s mission statement, lifespan, products/outcomes/deliverables and well defined roles and responsibilities for the liaisons.

Element B: Rules and Procedures

Element B Goal Statement: Each board will have clearly defined and appropriately adopted rules and procedures.

Element B, Strategy 1: Town Code Chapter 2, Article V, Boards/Commissions, sections 2-161 through 2-170 shall serve as the bylaws for all boards, along with the board or commission specific sections 2-171 through 2-180 of this Article.

Element B, Strategy 2: This policy, Policy Statement 150, General Rules of Order for Boards, shall serve as the general rules of order for all boards and will contain all general parliamentary procedures.

Element B, Strategy 3: Each board shall adopt board-specific rules of order establishing board-specific, non-parliamentary operating procedures or procedures above and beyond the general rules of order specific to a particular board (i.e., agenda development, etc.).

Element C: Work Plan/Goal Setting

Element C Goal Statement: Boards will establish measurable goals and work plans that detail how and by what date they will achieve their goals.

Element C, Strategy 1: Council-established goals will be part of the board goals and work plans.

Element C, Strategy 2: Each board will establish their own board-specific goals that are in concert with the council goals.

Element C, Strategy 3:  Each board will meet on a schedule commensurate with workload and board responsibilities.

Element C, Strategy 4: The boards will measure and report their performance to council on a schedule established by the Deputy Town Clerk.

Element D: Orientation

Element D Goal Statement: Appropriate staff will provide orientation/training to all new board members and refresher training to returning board members.

Element D, Strategy 1: The deputy town clerk will provide general orientation to all newly appointed board members.

Element D, Strategy 2: The deputy town clerk will provide special training to all board chairs to educate them on their role as meeting facilitators.

Element D, Strategy 3: The deputy town clerk will provide “refresher” information to all board members on the North Carolina Public Records Act and Open Meetings Law and all related Town policies and procedures at least twice per year.

Element D, Strategy 4: Each board staff liaison will provide board-specific orientation/training to new members.

Element E: Role of Liaisons

Element E Goal Statement: Each board will have an appointed Council liaison and an assigned staff liaison with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

Element E, Strategy 1:  Each board will have a Council liaison and a staff liaison.

Element E, Strategy 2:  All liaisons will follow established general guidelines regarding roles, responsibilities, and expectations applicable to all boards.

Element E, Strategy 3:  Board-specific liaison roles and responsibilities will be established.

Element E, Strategy 4:  Liaison roles, responsibilities, and expectations will be communicated to the board members.

Element E, Strategy 5: The general and board-specific liaison guidelines will be evaluated and revisions made to remain current and effective.

 

General Rules of Order:

 

The following general rules of order shall apply to all boards.  The Zoning Board of Adjustment, and other quasi-judicial boards as may exist from time to time, may vary the terms of these General Rules of Order as appropriate or necessary by adopting board specific rules to meet the special requirements of quasi-judicial boards.

 

1.         Roles Defined

 

a.         General Role of Council Liaison

At the organizational meeting in each election year, the mayor will appoint a council liaison to each board. The council liaison represents the council as a whole in the liaison role to a particular board and facilitates dialogue between the board and the full council. The council liaison shall refrain from advocating a personal perspective. The council liaison is not included in the board’s membership for quorum purposes and does not deliberate or vote on matters before the board. The council liaison shall bring a fair and balanced perspective and shall not impose personal biases on any of the boards.

 

The council liaison shall communicate with the board chair throughout the year to ensure boards focus on their missions and roles and to stay abreast of board activities. Council liaisons shall be accessible to board chairs to offer feedback and guidance.

 

Because each board is unique, it is the council liaison’s responsibility to work with the board chair, board members and the board staff liaison and determine the council liaison’s board-specific role, which shall be included in the board-specific rules of order. For example, some may determine that council liaison attendance at most or all board meetings is beneficial; others may determine that attendance at a few specific meetings each year is beneficial; others may determine that an occasional phone call or email to the board chair to facilitate communication is sufficient.

 

When council liaison assignments change, the new council liaison will meet with the board chair and staff liaison prior to their first board meeting to become knowledgeable of the board’s work. The new council liaison will work with the board chair, board members and the board staff liaison to determine the council liaison’s level of involvement with the board (as outlined above). This information will be updated as needed in the board-specific rules of order.

 

b.         General Role of Staff Liaison

The town manager, or designee, will designate the appropriate staff to serve as staff liaisons to the boards.  The staff liaison is not included in the board’s membership for quorum purposes and does not deliberate or vote on matters before the board.  Staff liaison duties include:

·         Provide professional advice and guidance to the board;

·         Support the functions of the board’s meetings and activities;

·         Develop and implement a board-specific orientation and training program for new members;

·         Work with the chair to develop the board’s meeting agenda;

·         Ensure that meeting notifications and recordkeeping occurs consistent with applicable state laws and Town policies;

·         Assist the chair in keeping the board on track and focused according to its mission;

·         Advise boards on appropriate process for moving forward issues and recommendations to council;

·         Educate and update boards on relevant Town initiatives and activities; and

·         Consider board input related to Town issues and activities.

 

The staff liaison shall work with the board chair, board members and council liaison to establish board-specific staff liaison responsibilities, which will be included in the board-specific rules of order.

 

c.         Role of Deputy Town Clerk

The deputy town clerk is responsible for the administrative work to maintain the boards. This includes recruiting for vacancies on the boards, providing general orientation for board members, special training to all chairs, training for staff liaisons, and working closely with the staff liaisons to ensure that these rules of order are explained to the board members.  The deputy town clerk will also provide information on the state’s Sunshine Laws (public records and open meetings) to all board members.

 

2.         Board Specific Rules of Order

Each board shall maintain board-specific rules of order that are consistent with this policy and shall include, but are not limited to, a reference to these general rules of order, the name and purpose of the board, any officers and duties not included in these rules of order, general rules specific to the board, liaison responsibilities specific to the board, meeting information (including cancellation procedures), etc. Each board shall approve their own board-specific rules of order and any amendments, and this document shall be posted on the Town’s Web site website.

 

3.         Meetings

Each December council adopts a comprehensive meeting schedule for the all Town public bodies which takes into account Town-observed holidays and other frequently observed holidays and events.  Once adopted, the meeting schedule is then posted in a public notice on the Town’s website and bulletin board. Appropriate public notice, as required by law, will be given for any special meeting or work session that is not included on the regular meeting schedule.

 

4.         Agenda

The purpose of the agenda is to organize materials to be considered and to give members an opportunity to study the issues before the meeting. Board agenda are prepared by the staff liaison, chair, or both, based upon information received from council, staff, and/or board members. The Planning and Zoning Board, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board, and the Public Art Advisory Board all have a role in the development process (i.e., rezonings, site/subdivision plans, Land Development Ordinance amendments, etc.), and their agenda will include links to reports prepared by staff.

 

The staff liaison will ensure that the agenda is available electronically at least five days prior to the board meeting. No changes will be made to the agenda once it has been posted on the Web. However, changes may be made at the beginning of the meeting if agreed to by a majority of the members present.

 

Any documents associated with a particular board meeting (staff reports, minutes, etc.) that are submitted electronically should be in a format determined by the Town staff to ensure ADA compliance. 

 

Items shall be placed on the agenda according to the order of business. The order of business for a regular meeting agenda follows. By unanimous consensus or majority vote of the board, agenda items may be considered in an order different from that shown on the agenda.

 

·         Call to Order:  The presider (usually the chair) will always begin the meeting at the appointed time with a quorum present;

·         Roll Call:  For the benefit of any member or member of the public participating electronically, the The presider will conduct roll call to determine the members present and absent announce the names of those members who are absent for the record (alternatively, the board may agree that the staff responsible for preparing minutes will include a list of members present and absent, thus eliminating the need for roll call);

·         Adoption of agenda:  The board will adopt the agenda as is, or with modifications by motion, second and vote of majority;

·         Swearing in of witnesses, if required:  A Town staff member who is a Notary Public may perform this duty in addition to other persons granted this authority by state law or other governing documents;

·         Approval of previous meeting minutes:  The board will adopt the minutes as is, or with modifications by motion, second and vote of majority;

·         Action and discussion items, reports, information items (including any public hearings or public evidentiary hearings);

·         Old/New Business:  these items must be specifically identified on the agenda or added with the adoption of the agenda;

·         Adjournment:  The board shall adjourn meetings by motion in open session.

 

5.         Open Meetings Requirement

All boards will adhere to the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Law. Board members shall not deliberate, vote, or otherwise take action on any matter with the intention of making it impossible for persons attending a meeting of the board to understand what is being deliberated, voted, or acted on. Board members should strive to be clear about the matters they are considering and should refrain from referencing an item by letter, number, or other designation which might be conceived as a secret device or method. The board may deliberate, vote or otherwise take action by reference to an agenda, if copies of the agenda – sufficiently worded to enable the public to understand what is being deliberated, voted, or acted on – are available for public inspection at the meeting.

 

In addition, the board shall not use email, instant message, text messaging, chat rooms, or other private communication methodologies during the meetings, all of which might be perceived as deliberating in secret.

 

6.         Quorum

Unless otherwise set forth in board-specific rules of order or other governing documents, a majority of the board, including the chair but excluding vacant seats, shall constitute a quorum. A majority is more than half of the board. A member who has withdrawn from a meeting without being excused by majority vote of the remaining members at the meeting present shall be counted as present for purposes of determining a quorum.

 

7.         Role of the Chair, Vice-Chair and Temporary Chair

The Town Council appointed chair shall be entitled to vote on all matters and shall be considered a board member for all purposes, including the determination of whether a quorum is present.

 

The chairs shall have the following authority:

·         To preside over public meetings of the board;

·         To vote upon all measures before the board;

·         To be counted for quorum purposes;

·         To preserve order and decorum;

·         To call a brief recess at any time;

·         To adjourn in an emergency.

 

The chairs may also

·         Rule motions in or out of order;

·         Determine when a speaker has gone beyond reasonable standards of courtesy in his or her remarks and to entertain and rule on objections from other members on this ground;

·         Answer questions of procedure.

 

Annually at the organizational meeting each board will elect from its membership a vice chair to serve in the chair’s absence or in case of sickness of the chair or other causes which would prevent the chair from attending to his or her duties. The vice chair shall be entitled to vote on all matters and shall be considered a board member for all purposes, including the determination of whether a quorum is present. When called upon to preside over meetings in the absence of the chair, the vice chair will have all authorities as the chair.

 

If both the chair and vice chair are absent from a meeting, the board will elect from among its members a temporary chair to preside at the meeting.  The temporary chair shall be entitled to vote on all matters and shall be considered a board member for all purposes, including the determination of whether a quorum is present. When called upon to preside over meetings in the absence of the chair and vice chair, the temporary chair will have all authorities as the chair.

 

The chair as the meeting presider shall follow the principles below, which were taken from “Roberts Rules in Plain English”:

·         “Be on time and start on time.”

·         “Be organized. The presiding officer should have a detailed, well prepared agenda and stick to it.”

·         “Be prepared. The presiding officer should be familiar with the procedural rules…”

·         “Be a teacher. The presiding officer should keep the group working together by explaining procedure clearly and communicating the next order of business. If a motion is confusing, it is his [her] duty to clarify it. This may mean helping a member rephrase a motion.”

·         “Be in control of the floor. The presiding officer should ‘assign’ the floor by recognizing those members who wish to speak by calling them by name. No other member may interrupt or call out remarks without being out of order. The presiding officer should remind such a member that the floor has been assigned and request that his [her] remarks be held until the floor has been assigned to him [her]. In addition, private discussion between members while another has the floor is out of order and disruptive members should be reminded of this rule.”

·         “Be impartial. The presiding officer should impartially call on members wishing to speak. He [she] should give members on both sides of an issue an opportunity to speak...”

·         “Be composed. The presiding officer should remain calm and objective, keeping the meeting moving.”

·         “Be precise. The presiding officer should always restate the motion before taking a vote. After taking the vote, he [she] announces the result of the vote by interpreting the action taken. The presiding officer should always be certain about the results of a voice vote. He [she] may retake the vote by requesting a show of hands on his [her] own accord.”

·         “Be focused. The presiding officer should not allow irrelevant discussion. Restate the question and, if necessary, directly request the member to ‘confine remarks to the pending question’.”

·         “Be temperate. The presiding officer should use the gavel sparingly, tapping it once to open and close the meeting.”

 

8.         Action by boards

Actions of the boards shall proceed by motion, unless agreed to proceed by unanimous consensus. Seconds are required to all motions. Only one motion at a time shall be allowed. Motions may be withdrawn at any time prior to a vote or in accordance with the law. Motions shall be adopted by a majority of the votes cast unless otherwise required by these rules or by the laws of North Carolina. A majority is defined as more than half of the board members present (including those participating electronically if allowed by this policy) for the vote.

 

Every member of the board should shall actively participate in voting unless excused by the remaining members in accordance with state law. A member who wishes to be excused from voting shall so inform the chair, who shall take a vote of the remaining members. No member should shall be excused from voting except upon matters in which the member has a conflict of interest (as outlined in the North Carolina General Statutes and case law). In all other cases, a failure to vote by a member who is physically present in the meeting, or who has withdrawn without being excused by a majority vote of the remaining members present, present at the meeting (including those participating electronically if allowed by this Policy) shall be recorded as an affirmative vote. However, board members are encouraged to make their voting positions clear by verbalizing their votes rather than allowing their silence to represent an affirmative vote. If a vote is unclear to the chair, then it will be up to the chair to call for a roll call vote by hand. For any voice vote that is not unanimous, the chair shall follow up and conduct a roll call vote.

 

9.         Public Hearings (if required)

The boards shall follow all North Carolina laws and local ordinances with regard to legally required public hearings. The purpose of public hearings is to receive public input. The board members should not engage in conversation or debate with speakers during public hearings. The board will hold all questions and comments until after the public hearing is closed.

 

The following rules apply to public hearings:

1.     Speakers must come to the podium to make their remarks;

2.     Speakers should clearly state their names;

3.     Speakers should be concise;

4.     Speakers should avoid repetition;

5.     Speakers should adhere to the five minute time limit;

6.     Speakers may only speak once per public hearing;

7.     Unused minutes are not transferable to other speakers;

8.     Individuals should designate a spokesperson for large groups;

9.     All speakers should provide their names and contact information to the staff person taking the minutes;

10.  Speakers should provide the staff person who is taking the minutes with any documents or materials to be presented to the board;

11.  Speakers should direct comments to the entire board and not to individual board members.

 

The Board of Adjustment, and any other quasi-judicial board, should adopt variations to these rules as required or appropriate for public evidentiary hearings.

 

10.        Debate/Discussion by Board Members

Debate/discussion shall be allowed prior to requiring a motion and second. During the debate/discussion, the presider shall call on a member who has not spoken on the issue before recognizing someone who has already spoken. The Board of Adjustment may adopt variations to these provisions for public evidentiary hearings.

 

Board members should avoid personal remarks directed towards individual board members, individual staff members, and individual council members. The presiding officer shall politely rule all such remarks as out of order.

 

The board members shall follow the debate/discussion principles outlined in Policy Statement 143 Rules of Procedure for the Cary Town Council, reiterated below:

 

·         “It is a good idea to begin your debate by telling the members which side you are speaking on…”

·         “Organize your thoughts. Pay close attention to your delivery. Speak clearly and slowly, project your voice, and say it like you mean it. Organize your thoughts into two or three main points and communicate them during your debate time…Keep focused on the major reasons why you have taken your stand. Consider this as part of your meeting preparation.” It’s a good idea to bring your concise notes to the meeting with you and actually take notes during the meeting to help you frame your debate/discussion comments.

·         “Only speak when called on” [by the presiding officer].

·         “Direct all comments to the chair. Avoid directing comments to another member.”

·         “Don’t be disruptive. Side conversations are not allowed. Neither is walking around the room in a manner that is disruptive to the meeting.”

·         “You can make corrections. If you hear information that you know is inaccurate, you have the right to call attention to the inaccuracy and to have the accurate information shared with the group… this must be done politely.”

 

11.        Minutes

Generally, the minutes of all boards are considered public records.  However, if the board’s session is closed, the minutes from the closed portion of the meeting may not become accessible by the public for a certain period of time, depending upon the circumstances and subject matter of the meeting. The public records laws should be relied upon in determining when all records, including minutes, are deemed public records.  The staff member that is designated as the secretary or liaison to the board shall be considered the custodian of the minutes and should treat such documents as public record laws require. 

 

The law requires that all minutes be “full and accurate”. The purpose of minutes is to provide a record of the actions taken by a board and not to provide a transcript of the discussions that occurred during the meeting. The minutes can also provide evidence on behalf of the board, that the board followed proper procedures in taking its actions. If no action is taken, the minutes may simply reflect that the meeting occurred, include the subject of the meeting and that no action occurred. It is not necessary to reflect the conversations and discussions of the board. The minutes should reflect motions made and seconds, identify the movants, dissenting votes, the general summary for the dissenting vote (or minority opinion), and the order in which the items before the board are addressed. All minutes shall be in written form. Minutes should contain enough information to act as an official record of the action taken, they should serve as a guide to staff and council in describing what action, if any, is recommended by the board, and they should be sufficient to be submitted as legal evidence as necessary. It is not necessary to record all discussions, particularly those discussions upon which no action is taken. Minutes for closed sessions shall be kept in accordance with the law and should provide a general account of the closed session so that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what transpired.

 

The following is an outline which may serve as a template for the boards in the preparation of meeting minutes.

 

·         Name/identity of the board;

·         Date, time and location of meeting;

·         Time meeting called to order;

·         Names of board members in attendance and those absent;

·         Statement of whether or not there was is a quorum present;

·         Identification of subjects for consideration;

·         Motions and seconds;

·         Any conflicts of interest or abstainments from voting and votes thereon;

·         Vote/Action taken by board;

·         Dissenting opinion;

·         Time meeting adjourned.

 

Board minutes shall be placed on the Web at least five days prior to the board’s next meeting. Often it is necessary for this to occur earlier based on the council meeting schedules (if the board recommendation is necessary for a council meeting agenda).

 

Each board shall vote to approve the minutes at its next meeting. Board members may suggest corrections to the minutes when they are in draft form. All board member suggested corrections should comply with this policy. Board members should not propose amendments to the minutes that conflict with this policy.

 

If audio recordings of board meetings are created, then the staff liaison shall maintain these audio recordings in accordance with the public records laws and Town policy. 

 

12.        (new item 12, and renumber remaining items)

 

Option 1 -A:

 

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, appointed members may participate electronically in their meetings. Members who participate electronically are not counted towards a quorum, and they may not officially vote on any issue. However, the Planning and Zoning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment and  may not participate electronically in their regular meetings. They may participate electronically in work sessions, meeting the same provisions outlined herein.

 

Subject to available Town technology, members of the public may participate electronically in appointed board meetings, excluding Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings. Each appointed group shall determine if their meetings allow a time for public comment, or if the public’s role is to listen without making comments.

 

Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Option 1-B:

 

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, appointed members may participate electronically in their meetings. Members who participate electronically are not counted towards a quorum, and they may not officially vote on any issue. However, the Planning and Zoning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment may not participate electronically in their regular meetings. They may participate electronically in work sessions, meeting the same provisions outlined herein. Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Members of the public may not participate electronically in any appointed group meeting.

 

Option 2-A:

 

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, appointed board members may participate electronically in their meetings according to the following stipulations:

 

(insert council stipulations here)

 

Members who participate electronically according to the above stipulations are counted towards a quorum, and they may officially vote on any issue. However, the Planning and Zoning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment may not participate electronically in their regular meetings. They may participate electronically in work sessions, meeting the same provisions outlined herein.

 

Subject to available Town technology, members of the public may participate electronically in appointed board meetings, excluding Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings. Each appointed group shall determine if their meetings allow a time for public comment, or if the public’s role is to listen without making comments.

 

Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Option 2-B:

 

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, appointed board members may participate electronically in their meetings according to the following stipulations:

 

(insert council stipulations here)

 

Members who participate electronically according to the above council stipulations are counted towards a quorum, and they may officially vote on any issue. However, the Planning and Zoning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment may not participate electronically in their regular board meetings. They may participate electronically in work sessions, meeting the same provisions outlined herein. Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Members of the public may not participate electronically in any appointed group meeting.

 

Option 3-A:

 

With the exception of the Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings, appointed members may participate electronically in their meetings. Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment members may participate electronically in their work sessions. Members who participate electronically are counted towards a quorum, and they may officially vote on any issue. The chair or co-chair and the staff liaison shall physically attend the meeting to preside and facilitate.

 

Subject to available Town technology, members of the public may participate electronically in appointed board meetings, excluding Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings. Each appointed group shall determine if their meetings allow a time for public comment, or if the public’s role is to listen without making comments.

 

Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Option 3-B:

 

With the exception of the Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings, appointed board members may participate electronically in their meetings with no advanced notice to the staff liaison required. Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment members may participate electronically in their work sessions. Members who participate electronically are counted towards a quorum, and they may officially vote on any issue. The chair or co-chair or member designated to serve as chair and the staff liaison shall physically attend the meeting to preside and facilitate. Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Members of the public may not participate electronically in any appointed meeting.

 

Option 4-A:

 

Appointed board members may not participate electronically in their meetings.

 

Subject to available Town technology, members of the public may participate electronically in appointed board meetings, excluding Planning and Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment regular meetings. Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Option 4-B:

 

Appointed board members may not participate electronically in their meetings. Members of the public may not participate electronically in meetings of appointed bodies.

 

12.13.   Committees of the Boards

Each board except the Zoning Board of Adjustment may create committees from its membership to facilitate the efficiency and effectiveness of the board’s business by researching, studying, and deliberating issues on behalf of, and at the direction of, the full board. The meetings of these committees are public meetings and must comply with the open meetings law. The public notice may serve as the agenda for committee meetings. Items may not be added to the agenda of a committee meeting. Minutes of committee meetings shall comply with this policy. Recommendation and reports of any committee will be made to the full board for discussion and/or recommendation.

 

13.14.   Parliamentary Procedure Resources

When questions arise about parliamentary procedure that are not addressed by these general rules of order or the board-specific rules of order, the following resources may be consulted: Suggested Rules of Procedures for Small Local Government Boards (by Fleming Bell), Suggested Rules of Procedure for a City Council (by Fleming Bell), and Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th Edition.

 

14.15.   Coverage (Effective Date and Application)

This policy, upon adoption of the Town Council, shall be applicable to all council appointed boards and committees until such time that the policy statement is altered, modified or rescinded by the Town Council.

 


Suggested Revisions to Policy 143, Town Council Rules of Order:

 

E.         Open Meetings Requirement

 

The council shall not deliberate, vote, or otherwise take action on any matter by reference to a letter, number, or other designation, or other secret device or method, with the intention of making it impossible for persons attending a meeting of the council to understand what is being deliberated, voted, or acted on. The council may, however, deliberate, vote or otherwise take action by reference to an agenda, if copies of the agenda – sufficiently worded to enable the public to understand what is being deliberated, voted, or acted on – are available for public inspection at the meeting.

 

In addition, the council shall not use email, instant message, or chat rooms during the meetings and shall not participate in private conversations with other members of the council, all of which could be perceived as deliberating in a secret method.

 

If circumstances prevent a council member from attending any type of a council meeting or work session, then that council member may request of the town clerk at least 48 hours two business days in advance of the meeting to electronically participate in the meeting by phone. The council member may electronically participate in the discussion during the meeting by phone but may shall not vote. The meeting minutes will show the council member as absent and acknowledge that the council member electronically participated in the discussion by phone. The council member may not participate electronically in any quasi-judicial hearing or closed session. To ensure full disclosure and to meet the spirit and intent of wire tap laws, the mayor shall announce at the beginning of the meeting that the council member is participating in the meeting by phone.


 

*****************************************************

Update, April 11, 2013


 

Addendum (if council chooses to approve the committee’s recommendation):


 

Adopt an ordinance amendment as follows:


 

Sec. 2‑166.  Attendance at board meetings.

 

Although recognizing and appreciating the fact that members of the boards are generally citizen volunteers, the town council deems it essential that members of all town boards attend meetings regularly for the prompt and efficient transaction of town affairs. The staff liaison of each board shall maintain attendance records, including attendance at regular meetings, work sessions and all special called meetings. Members participating electronically in their meetings shall abide by Policy 150. If at any time during a board year any member misses three meetings (not including a meeting in which the member participated electronically according to Policy 150), that board member is responsible for notifying the deputy town clerk and the town council liaison to that board. The deputy town clerk shall include an item on the next available town council meeting agenda requesting that the council as a whole make a decision on this member's continued service on that board.

 

As a courtesy, prior to the town council's annual appointments to boards, the deputy town clerk shall review the attendance records and shall notify all board members who have missed three or more meetings in a 12‑month board year that they must reapply if they wish to be considered by the town council to finish their original appointed term. Council will then consider the applications of those members during the normal selection and appointment process.

 

AND

 

Amend Policy 150 as shown by adding:

 

With a minimum of two business day’s advanced notice to the staff liaison, appointed members may participate electronically in their meetings. Each member is allowed to participate electronically in one meeting each year. Members who participate electronically are not counted towards a quorum, and they may not officially vote on any issue or take part in any official recommendation. However, the Planning and Zoning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment may not participate electronically in their regular meetings. They may participate electronically in work sessions, meeting the same provisions outlined herein. Staff is allowed to determine on a case-by-case basis that certain meetings of appointed groups are not appropriate for electronic participation.

 

Members of the public may not participate electronically in any appointed group meeting.

 

AND

 

Amend Policy 143 as shown (housekeeping changes to reflect current practice):

 

E.         Open Meetings Requirement

 

The council shall not deliberate, vote, or otherwise take action on any matter by reference to a letter, number, or other designation, or other secret device or method, with the intention of making it impossible for persons attending a meeting of the council to understand what is being deliberated, voted, or acted on. The council may, however, deliberate, vote or otherwise take action by reference to an agenda, if copies of the agenda – sufficiently worded to enable the public to understand what is being deliberated, voted, or acted on – are available for public inspection at the meeting.

 

In addition, the council shall not use email, instant message, or chat rooms during the meetings and shall not participate in private conversations with other members of the council, all of which could be perceived as deliberating in a secret method.

 

If circumstances prevent a council member from attending any type of a council meeting or work session, then that council member may request of the town clerk at least 48 hours two business days in advance of the meeting to electronically participate in the meeting by phone. The council member may electronically participate in the discussion during the meeting by phone but may shall not vote. The meeting minutes will show the council member as absent and acknowledge that the council member electronically participated in the discussion by phone. The council member may not participate electronically in any quasi-judicial hearing or closed session. To ensure full disclosure and to meet the spirit and intent of wire tap laws, the mayor shall announce at the beginning of the meeting that the council member is participating in the meeting by phone.