Oak Lawn Village Board institutes new rules of order
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent August 18, 2012 1:44AM
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:21AM
Hoping to reduce interruptions and have meetings run more smoothly, the Oak Lawn Village Board last week approved changes to its rules of order — but not without objections from some trustees and residents.
Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann in July proposed the rules be incorporated into the village code in an attempt to get trustees to behave better at meetings, he said.
Heilmann said 95 percent of the language in his proposals was taken from Roberts Rules of Order, which many municipalities rely upon.
Sandra Bury, a resident and business owner, criticized the proposal, calling the changes “Dave’s Rules.”
“Roberts Rules are already in our code,” Bury said. “Dave’s Rules are trying to censor the minority on the board. It’s really a violation of democracy.”
Resident Andy Skoundrianos, who has attended village board meetings for 20 years, blamed Heilmann for losing control of the meetings and said additional rules were unnecessary.
“I don’t think you need to change the code,” Skoundrianos said.
But Trustee Carol Quinlan, a Heilmann ally, said the rules were needed to prevent the personal attacks that became common during meetings over the past year.
An amendment designed to ensure as much reads: “A board member may disagree with or condemn a proposed matter or measure under debate, but the board member must avoid personalities and under no circumstances can he or she attack or question the motives of another board member.”
The changes also require trustees to address all remarks to the chair. They are not allowed to address each other or ask questions of each other.
Heilmann’s political opponents on the board are most disturbed by two rules that the mayor added, including one that prevents board members from placing on the agenda “any matter that is designed for any obstructive or improper purpose.”
According to the rule, “Whenever the chair becomes convinced that one or more members are using parliamentary forms or agenda items for obstructive purposes, the chairman should either not recognize those members or rule that such motions are out of order.”
Trustee Tom Phelan described the rule as “chilling” because it gives Heilmann the authority to prevent an item from being added to an agenda, he said.
“(The rule) is the most troublesome,” Phelan said. “We have to have vigorous debate about issues and ideas. This is not a court of law. We don’t all have to agree.”
Heilmann said the rules aren’t designed to prevent trustees from speaking.
“I don’t want to stop someone. That’s not the goal,” he said.
The new rules also require trustees, staff members and others to have presentations sent to board members one week in advance of a board meeting accompanied by an explanation of the purpose of the presentation. Presentations cannot exceed five minutes without the consent of at two-thirds of the board.
Trustee Carol Quinlan said the requirement protects the board minority from surprises presented by the majority.
“Having been in that position, it’s terrible,” said Quinlan, who is now a member of the board majority.
Finally, the new rules require the village manager to give board members five days notice of any matter he places on the agenda.