St. Francis council member questions bringing vote back to the table

St. Francis City Councilmember Mike Haggard May 6 questioned if it was appropriate to bring a nuisance ordinance amendment back to the table for a new vote after it failed to pass March 18.

Haggard had been the only council member to vote against the ordinance at the March 18 meeting. However, Mayor Jerry Tveit had been absent from that meeting, resulting in a three-fourths vote, one short of the four-fifths required to pass ordinance amendments.

Tveit had asked that the issue be put back on the agenda for a new first reading at the council’s April 1 meeting, when the council approved the ordinance amendment 4-1, with Haggard again opposed.

Before the vote on the second reading of the ordinance amendment on May 6, Haggard asked whether the city does in fact operate under Robert’s Rules of Order.

Tveit said it did.

“So if I’m understanding this correctly… it [the ordinance amendment] was already voted down once, and then on the next meeting it was put back on the agenda,” Haggard said. “And from what I’m reading in the Robert’s Rules of Order it can’t be put on that way.”

According to Tveit, it was his understanding of Robert’s Rules of Order that once an issue is voted down, the person who voted it down cannot request that it be put back on the agenda, but a person who did not vote it down can.

St. Francis City Attorney Scott Lepak said that Robert’s Rules of Order on this “does have some limitations.”

“I would also note that the city follows Robert’s Rules of Order in a manner that is not terribly strict,” he said.

“So what you’re saying then is that we do follow Robert’s Rule, but we don’t follow Robert’s Rule,” Haggard said.

“In order to run an orderly meeting, by and large Roberts Rules of Order are followed, but we don’t strictly adhere to them,” Lepak said.

In this particular case the mayor had not been present at the March 18 meeting, he said.

Since the vote was one that requires a four-fifths to pass and such a vote would not have been possible since a member was absent, “in my opinion this is proper for the council to do,” Lepak said.

“That’s our legal opinion,” Tveit said. “So, according to Mr. Lapek’s opinion this is a proper motion.”

The council voted 4-1 to approve the nuisance ordinance amendments, which are intended to make the city’s nuisance ordinance easier for the city to enforce. Haggard had challenged several of the specifics listed in the ordinance amendment at the council’s April 1 meeting.

  • Alan Jennings

    Under Robert’s Rules, it is perfectly permissible to bring back a motion that failed at a previous meeting (even “the” previous meeting.) Robert calls this “renewing” a motion. After a motion fails, it’s fair game at the next meeting for any member to make the same motion.

    Many local governing bodies seem to have this misconception about bringing a motion again before an assembly. They confuse themselves by trying to apply the rules for the Motion to Reconsider, which is a motion made to bring back _in_the_same_session a motion that has been decided one way or the other earlier the same day, or the day before in a session lasting more than one day.

    Robert (RONR 11th ed. p. 336) §38. RENEWAL OF MOTIONS reads, “If a motion is made and disposed of without being adopted, and is later allowed to come before the assembly after being made again by any member in essentially the same connection, the motion is said to be renewed. Renewal of motions is limited by the basic principle that an assembly cannot be asked to decide the same, or substantially the same, question twice during one session—except through a motion to reconsider a vote (37) or a motion to rescind an action (35), or in connection with amending something already adopted (see also pp. 74–75).

    In other words, if the motion to buy a fire truck fails this month, any member can move to buy a fire truck at next month’s meeting.

    • Richard Brown

      I agree with Alan Jennings. The motion failed at the March 18 meeting. It was put back on the agenda for first reading as a *new* item for the April 1 meeting. It was not being reconsidered. It all seems perfectly proper to me as long as the council’s own rules and applicable law were being followed.

  • Bill

    If a motion has been either adopted or defeated during a meeting,
    and at least one member who voted on the winning side wants to
    have the vote reconsidered, such a member may make the motion
    to Reconsider.
    This motion can only be made by a member who voted on the
    winning side. That is to say, if the motion was adopted, the motion
    to Reconsider can be made only by a member who voted in favor of
    the motion, or if the motion was defeated, then only by a member
    who voted against it.

    This was not a renewal of any motion , but a ordinance that FAILED in the same form it was presented in it’s original form. It was being reconsidered……..

  • Jason

    If a motion is defeated or approved and it is then presented again without any significant changes then in reality is it really serving a purpose or just debating the same issue over and over again and failing to efficiently utilize the time of the city staff? Furthermore is it really representing the best interests of the citizens and moving forward?

    At which time does common sense trump a rule that is only followed when it happens to be convenient?