Problems Persist with Syracuse's Proposed Rules

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According to Joe Levi, spokesperson for Syracuse Citizens for Fair Rules in Public Meetings, the proposed Rules of Order and Procedure (required by Utah Law) that will be discussed at tonight’s meeting of the Syracuse City Council still have some sizable problems.

First, I want to commend the City for the work they’ve done so far. When I started the process I was given conflicting information from City Officials. Some said they had no Rules. Others said they didn’t have to follow any Rules. Still others said that Title 2 of Syracuse Municipal Code were our Rules. Finally the Mayor said that the City Attorney had advised her that the way she runs the meetings “is a rule of order” — essentially indicating that the Mayor is the Rule. In short, it was clear there was confusion about the necessity and existence of the Rules.

Now, after having brought this to their attention, they’ve worked very fast to come into compliance with State Law. That said, the Rules they initially proposed were riddled with problems. I brought that to their attention in the last City Council Meeting — unfortunately through an act of Civil Disobedience.

That act, says Mr. Levi, was allowing his time to expire, and continuing to talk. Mayor Jamie Nagle asked him to take his seat. When Mr. Levi did not, Mayor Nagle asked the Chief of Police to remove him. Mr. Levi says he informed the Chief of Utah Law, and asked the Mayor if she was making a motion to have him removed.

That’s where some confusion comes into play. Look at the minutes of that Meeting: the Mayor said that section of law is only applicable to removing members of the Governing Body. With all due respect, she’s wrong. If you look up Utah 10-3-608, it talks about the removal of “any person”, not a Councilmember. The section is even entitled Rules of Conduct for the Public.

After having shared this information with the Mayor she still issued an order that didn’t comply with State Law.

The City Recorder, in an email, even admitted that she was incorrect, and that section of code does apply to members of the Public.

It’s concerning, that even after the Mayor had been given the exact reference to State Law twice, and her own City Recorder concurred with my reading of State Law, that they still haven’t changed that in the Rules they’ll be proposing at the next City Council Meeting.

So, what does Mr. Levi feel are still problematic? Although he says the list isn’t exhaustive, the major sticking points are:

  1. The proposed “Rules” continue to redefine the roles outside that are rightly defined in Title 2 of Syracuse Municipal Code.
  2. “Groups” must now publicly declare their membership to the City Recorder. The Mayor is granted power to have a person who exceeds the time limit in a manner inconsistent with Utah 10-3-608 (2/3 majority vote of the Governing Body) AND Syracuse Municipal Code 2.02.150 (“upon an affirmative majority vote of those members present, expel any person who is disorderly during any regular, study, or special meeting of the City Council.”)
  3. The “Rules” are still “non-binding”.
  4. A Member is denied access to the meeting in the case of a Conflict of Interest. This provided an incentive for a Member to hide any such Conflict.
What should be done about it? Mr. Levi says that although the Rules still have problems, if the following modifications were made, the Group he represents would remove their objection to the Rules:
  1. Strike Sections 2 and 3 and replace with the following: “Roles and Duties of members of the Governing Body are defined in Title 2 of Syracuse Municipal Code.”
  2. Section 4J, be changed to read: “Content.  Discussions in the meetings are to be limited to agenda items and issues reasonably related thereto.  Comments or presentation by the public should be limited to relevant issues.  In order to ensure that the meetings proceed timely and orderly, the City Council may impose a time limit on those desiring to address the Council. Groups desiring to address the Council may be asked to select a spokesperson for this purpose. A group shall be defined as an assembly of five or more people in attendance with similar viewpoints on a give issue who wish to be represented by a single spokesperson.  The names of each member of the group shall be provided to the City Recorder as well as the name of the spokesperson of the group prior to the spokesperson being allowed to address the Governing Body for a five minute period. Any person not included on this list shall not be prohibited from speaking on the same or a related topic for their allotted time. Should any person disrupt the meeting by exceeding a time limit, discussing irrelevant issues, or otherwise, the Mayor may ask for a motion to have the person removed in a manner consistent with Utah 10-3-608.”
  3. Remove the following from Section 1: “Nothing in these rules shall be interpreted to provide independent basis for invalidating or in any way altering a final decision of the Council unless otherwise provided by City ordinance, or State Law.  Nor shall anything herein be construed so as to provide or create an independent cause of action for any person or action.”
  4. Section 6C be changed to read: “Conflict of Interest/Disqualification.  Any member declaring a conflict of interest shall be disqualified from casting a vote pertaining to that particular matter.”
  5. Section 7 be re-titled to “Amendments or Changes to the Rules of Order and Procedure” so it is not confused with amendments on motions.
What will the Syracuse City Council do? Pass Rules that violate State Law? Or make the requested changes?

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