Who is Guarding the Guardians?
By Anna Marie Gott
When the wrong people believe that rules were made for everyone but them, things can go bad fast. When a person writes the rules for others they should abide by them, right? Not so in Santa Barbara where the powerful are exempt.
What happened? The City Council rescinded Council Resolution No. 05-073 by approving Resolution No. 09-097. One set of rules was replaced by another. We elect representatives for that. As Council member, and member of the Ad Hoc Council Procedures Committee, Cathy Murillo worked for 3 months in 2015 to install new rules for procedures that now govern City Council meetings. On November 10th Murillo and the City Council voted unanimously to replace Robert’s Rules of Order with Rosenberg’s Rules of Order for the 21st Century and rescinding Resolution No. 09-097. 2009 was out and Rosenberg was in. Why is this important?
Rosenberg’s Rules of Order tell policy makers how to work when things get confusing, like when a motion needs to be reconsidered and how to make it. In case there was a past vote, for example, to keep things clear and on track, there need to be rules on how that vote gets changed once the matter is closed. In this case, 2 conditions must exist:
1. The first is timing, the motion “must be made at the meeting where the item was first voted on.”
2. The second rule applies to who can make a motion to reconsider. “A motion to reconsider may be made only by a member who voted in the majority on the original motion.”
To keep rule making from looking like a ball on a tennis court played between opposing sides, these rules specify that “if a member who voted in the minority seeks to make a motion to reconsider, it must be ruled out of order. The purpose of the rule is finality. If a member of a minority could make a motion to reconsider, then the item could be brought back to the body again and again, which would defeat the purpose of finality.”
It is simple. A bedrock principle where all rules of order from a small town PTA to the US Senate keeps that tennis ball in play only for so long - someone from the winning side (majority) can request reconsideration. The City has always observed this principal under both Robert’s and Rosenberg’s Rules of Order.
On January 9th a majority on council voted to appoint Councilmember Dominguez to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG). Against the rules, the ball went back into play on January 16th when minority members Murillo and Friedman, submitted a memo citing the old, 2009, rescinded Resolution No. 05-073 as their authority to reconsider the appointment. Not only did Murillo and Friedman rely this rescinded Resolution for standing, but they were both part of the minority and out of order.
The bottom-line here is that Murillo either willfully ignored the law or she forgot that she spent months considering Rosenberg’s Rules of Order and voted to replace them. Whichever the case may be, it leaves both Murillo and Friedman at the core of the deep dysfunction gripping City Council.
There are two items of paramount concern now. Will Murillo and the City admit the mistake or will the City let this terrible precedent stand?
The political machinations of Murillo and Friedman must stop and our City Attorney must uphold our laws not ignore them. If you want to tell Murillo and the City Council to be honest and follow the laws email SBCityCouncil@santabarbaraCA.g