On Tuesday I poked a little fun at the prior night’s meeting of the Southbridge Town Council.
The fact is, however, that over an hour of wasted time as well as a vote to reconsider just before the close of the meeting could have been avoided easily.
All that was required was a fundamental understanding of the provisions of Robert’s Rules of Order as they apply to points of order.
Here is the incident that led to this ignominious waste of time and effort.
One of the key elements related to a point of order is timeliness.
As stated in Robert’s Rules, “If a question of order is to be raised, it must be raised promptly at the time the breach occurs.”
In this respect Councilor Moriarty’s point of order was both proper and timely. Similarly, the Chairman’s ruling was correct.
The problem arose in regard to Councilor Manna’s contention that everything was null and void because the same kind of breach of order had been committed by Councilor Moriarty in subcommittee.
Her argument was invalid due to the requirement of timeliness.
If she was going to object, then the time to do it was when the breach of order occurred in subcommittee. Once that opportunity had passed the violation became irrelevant.
The only exception to the timeliness rule is where the violation is of a continuing nature. The specific conditions relating to this exception were not met in this case. There are only five circumstances under which the timeliness rule does not apply: when a main motion is adopted that conflicts with the by-laws (unless the conflict is with a rule in the nature of a rule of order); when a main motion is adopted that conflicts with a previously adopted main motion (unless it is adopted by the vote required to amend that motion); when an action is taken in violation of applicable procedural rules prescribed by law; when an action is taken in violation of a fundamental principle of parliamentary law; and when an action is taken in violation of a rule protecting absentees or a basic right of an individual member.
The proper invocation of this condition of timeliness in response to Councilor Manna, either by another member or the Chairman, would have prevented a significant waste of time.
Time to review the basics of the rules of order folks.