SAVOY — The Savoy Village Board has always conducted its meetings without formal rules of order on the books, but that could change.
Village trustees will be taking up a draft of possible new rules for conducting their meetings — including rules for how trustees conduct themselves in discussions, with potential censures for disorderly behavior — at an upcoming study session, possibly sometime next month.
If approved, the rules would be incorporated into village code.
Village President John Brown said the code spells out when board meetings take place but not how they’re to be conducted.
“We’ve never really had any rules of order, you know,” he said.
Brown said he asked village Trustee Bill Vavrik to come up with a draft to serve as a starting point for discussion on the issue.
He sent Vavrik some suggestions, Brown said, but input wasn’t sought from the village’s administrative staff.
One section in the draft states: “Any member acting or appearing in a lewd or disgraceful manner, or who uses excoriating, obscene or insulting language to or about any member, officer or staff member of the village or who does not obey the order of the presiding officer shall be, on motion, censured by a majority vote of the trustees present or expelled by two-thirds vote of the trustees holding office.”
Brown said one of his suggestions was including the ability to fine a board trustee who is expelled more than once during a term of office — the draft suggests a fine of $500 — for each subsequent offense resulting in an expulsion.
After hearing from some trustees about the fine clause, Brown said, it’s unlikely that it will be included.
Also unlikely to be included is a section that limits all public comment at board meetings to a total 30 minutes, he said.
It’s rare that village board meetings attract lengthy public comment, Brown said, and he’s never been comfortable limiting comments from members of the public who come to address the board to five minutes each.
Brown said the board has always said it follows Robert’s Rules of Order (a manual of parliamentary procedure) — but never officially — and what’s being proposed comes almost entirely from Robert’s Rules.
As it stands now, a board trustee can say anything and insinuate motives on the part of another trustee or engage in a personal verbal attack on another trustee, Brown said.
In the absence of rules, there’s no recourse for the person chairing the meeting to say that type of conduct isn’t allowed and to impose order to get the discussion back on track, he said.
Trustee Jan Niccum said he views the draft rules as targeting just one person he identified as himself.
“I think it’s all directed at one person,” he said. “They’re targeting one person who asks questions.”
Niccum contended that the rules aren’t needed, and also said board meetings ran smoothly until two years ago.
Brown said the board may have several discussions on the meeting rules, and it’s not a given that any rules will be adopted.
“The board may decide they don’t want to do anything,” he said.