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City Commission votes against formally adopting Robert’s Rules, chooses new Mayor Pro Tem

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Tallahassee City Commission went back and forth on whether to formally adopt Robert’s Rules of Order during Wednesday’s meeting. The agenda item came up an abrupt end to a previous meeting in which Mayor John Dailey cut off Commissioner Jack Porter; Dailey later publicly apologized.

Robert’s Rules are 140 years old, used to maintain order in public meetings. The most recent 12th edition is more than 700 pages long.

According to the agenda item, “The complexity means that, if an organization formally adopts and intends to follow the Rules, it also needs to engage a Parliamentarian to properly understand and apply them. Failure to follow the Rules after they have been formally adopted can result in questions about the validity of actions taken when the proper procedure was not observed.”

Commissioners had three options:

  1. Adopt or amend a City Commission Policy confirming that the City Commission adheres generally to simplified parliamentary procedures and is guided by Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, as may be amended from time to time (“the Rules”).
  2. Adopt or amend a City Commission Policy formally adopting Robert’s Rules of Order and direct staff to employ or contract with a Parliamentarian.
  3. Direct staff to draft and bring back for approval a new City Commission Policy detailing the rules of procedure for City Commission meetings, incorporating current practice and using Robert’s Rules as reference.

Wednesday’s decision was to reaffirm how the Commission currently operates.

Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to adopt a policy confirming they generally adhere to the rules, with Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter in opposition.

After the first vote, Commissioner Porter brought up the possibility of a queue system, similar to what the Leon County Commission currently uses.

Porter’s motion to have City staff bring back options on an electronic system was seconded by Matlow, but then failed with Williams-Cox, Richardson, and Mayor Dailey voting against it.

“I just would like the record to show, I understand the decision we’ve made. I clearly don’t feel like what we have is working, which is why I have asked for more support,” Porter said after the vote.

The Robert’s Rules discussion was not the only split vote on Wednesday night.

Dianne Williams-Cox nominated Curtis Richardson to serve as the new Mayor Pro Tem, since Matlow’s term is expiring.

However, Matlow made a substitute motion for Porter to serve as Mayor Pro Tem, citing the fact that she had not yet served in that position. The substitute motion died for lack of a second.

The vote to confirm Richardson as Mayor Pro Tem was then 4-1, with Matlow against.

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