West: Will Commission revise its rules?

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The first "EVER" meeting of the Cannon County Ethics Committee could result in some interesting changes at upcoming County Commission meetings.

At the Ethics Committee meeting, the panel considered a First Amendment complaint from citizen Paul Morgan. Mr. Morgan felt his free speech rights had been denied by County Executive Mike Gannon at a recent County Commission meeting.

Maybe they were ... or maybe not. Mr. Morgan accepted an apology from Mr. Gannon and the issue was dropped, but not before Paul made a request of the Ethics Committee.

Mr. Morgan asked the committee members to take up the issue with the full County Commission. Roberts Rules of Order was mentioned as well.

Admittedly, the Commission does tend to run roughshod over the typical procedures used by many government panels.

In the way of information... A man named General Henry Robert established his rules of order back in 1876. The original book was 176 pages long. Today's version is 669 pages. Fortunately, all that knowledge isn't required to function effectively in ordinary meetings.

The Cannon County Commission does generally follow the procedures highlighted in Roberts Rules of Order. An agenda is issued prior to the meeting and it's generally followed with a few exceptions.

However, the Commission meetings are casual, much more informal than other community groups like the Cannon County School Board. The School Board sticks to its agenda and (here's where the catch comes in) citizens aren't allowed to speak unless they are on that agenda. And their time is restricted as well.


For one thing, the School Board deals with some very compli-cated issues often involving children who are minors. But the big issue is CHAOS.

Letting the public (or whomever) just "butt" into a meeting is very disruptive, particularly if they go off on a tangent completely unrelated to what is going on at the meeting.

This is a growing problem at County Commission meetings. I hate to say it, but some people are interrupting just to be disruptive and further their own political agendas.

Years ago, this kind of disruption became a problem at the Rutherford County Board of Education and the Rutherford County Commission. Both of these groups tightened up their rules by use of Roberts Rules of Order. The process wasn't pretty at first, but it worked.

It will be interesting to see what develops.

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Mike West column
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