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Council may change way issues are voted on, meetings are run

SALISBURY — Robert’s Rules of Order are generally used by both large and small government bodies to ensure that every elected official’s voice is heard when taking a vote or voicing an opinion.

But there are other methods of parliamentary procedure that can be used to maintain municipal processes, and Mayor Al Heggins expressed interest in looking into those options at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Heggins said the UNC School of Government recommends that smaller municipalities like Salisbury establish their own rules of parliamentary procedure to make meetings run more efficiently and enhance the public’s understanding.

“Sometimes you don’t know when things are broken until you fix it,” Heggins said in a separate interview.

She referenced her recent mayoral training, which was at the UNC School of Government.

“We understand that everyone always talks about Robert’s Rules, but the recommendation is that you don’t use Robert’s Rules because Robert’s Rules — according to the (School of Government) in the training that we went to — it’s not designed for small bodies. It’s designed for larger bodies,” Heggins said.

Robert’s Rules of Order is about 700 pages long and covers phrasings and rules for every imaginable situation that could occur in an official meeting.

Heggins said she thinks the council should come up with simplified rules for meeting conduct that would more closely fit Salisbury’s needs.

At Tuesday’s meeting, other council members questioned what changes Heggins planned to make to the council’s parliamentary procedures.

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield asked whether Heggins knew of any examples that the council could use as a template.

Heggins said there are different rules that other municipalities are using, “so we don’t have to re-create the wheel.”

Councilman Brian Miller said that in the nine years he has served on the council, he hasn’t found “anything deficient about what we’ve been doing.”

“But if there is a desire on the part of council to look at this, I think this is where you are wanting to go,” Miller said to Heggins.

He said that instead of having a discussion about it during the meeting — a process he called “making sausage” — the council should form a subcommittee focused on how and whether to change parliamentary procedure.

“That would allow this body to deal with things that are on our agenda and let the committee do the work and come back with a recommendation or a draft of suggestions,” Miller said.

Councilman David Post said he agrees with the idea of considering a shift away from Robert’s Rules, though he did not specify what changes — if any — he would support.

No subcommittee was formed by the end of the meeting, but council members did agree to look into the matter individually.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.




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