20 Aug 2014
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Village Board Adopts New Rules of Engagement

A divisive proposal to add more Robert's Rules of Order to Oak Lawn's municipal code gets nod by new board majority.

Village Board Adopts New Rules of Engagement

The mayor flexed his new board majority and to curb “unnecessary fighting” during village board meetings.

Mayor Dave Heilmann presented a draft of proposed changes to the “Rules of Order,” at last month’s village board meeting. Title I, Section 6-5, Rules and Order of the village code are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, long considered the gold standard for running meetings effectively and fairly.

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Not everyone was happy with the amendment, which

Dr. Sandra Bury, a business owner and community activist, criticized the proposed amendment at Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Village Board meeting—calling them “Dave’s Rules.”

“It’s really a violation of democracy,” Bury said. “Mr. Mayor, please take ‘Dave’s Rules’ and file them away somewhere for a long time.”

Trustees agreed to removing the word “political” from one of the mayor’s rules, concerning the placement of items on the agenda “which [may be] designed for any obstructive, improper or political purpose.”

“In fairness to the criticism in the vagueness of that term, I respect that criticism,” Heilmann said. “I understand the vagueness.”

Trustees were provided with a side-by-side comparison of the mayor’s draft alongside the respective Robert’s Rule. The rule to placing items on the agenda also gives the chair of the village board president the authority to remove such items if the chair suspects one or more board members are using parliamentary procedure for “obstructive purposes.”

Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) said he didn’t disagree with the idea to maintain control and decorum, but expressed concern about a member prohibiting a concept, issue, audit or investigation from being placed on the agenda by virtue of one person having aboard majority.

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“That is actually counter to what Robert’s Rules and our democracy stands for,” Phelan said. “At the end of the day we have to vigorously debate issues and ideas … we try our best not to get out of control and overreact but obviously we’re all passionate people.”

Calling the draft “chilling,” Phelan added, “as mayor you could say I consider it obstructive and improper. What’s our discourse, who do we appeal to?”

Provided more than one trustee supports the placement of items on the board agenda, village board members are currently permitted add any matter on the agenda.

“I don’t disagree with you,” Heilmann told Phelan. “The idea is for anything obstructive. The village president can’t say ‘you can’t put that on the agenda. How do we get a 4-2 majority to address that?”

The village board also quibbled over a new addition mandating that any PowerPoint or audio-video presentation by a board, staff or third party wishes to have displayed at board meeting be sent to all village board members in advance.

Heilmann said the measure was designed to eliminate “surprises.”

Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) thought the addition protected the board minority, although she felt materials for display at board members could be included in the board’s packet the Friday preceding board meetings.

“When I was very much in the board majority there were several times a PowerPoint came to this board that I knew nothing about until a sudden a screen comes down and information is give out,” Quinlan said. “It was very obvious that the board majority did now about it.”

Heilamnn said the idea was to restrict anything that might cross the line to be discussed at the board table.

“You’ve done a good job of keeping boxers in their corner,” Trustee Tom Duhig (Dist. 4) told the mayor. “I hated to see impassioned discussion squashed. I’d rather see that than a bunch of bobbleheads. Let’s keep the ten commandments as is.”

“I don’t know which meetings you’ve been sitting through,” Quinlan quipped.

The Oak Lawn Village Board passed the new rules 4-3. Phelan, Duhig and Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) were the dissenting votes.

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