Phelan Says Proposed Rules Give Mayor 'Too Much Authority'
Oak Lawn trustees postpone voting on mayor's proposed amendment to bring order and decorum back to village board meetings because of "subjective" language.
Mayor Dave Heilmann’s attempts to bring order and decorum back to Oak Lawn Village Board meetings were viewed by some as an attempt to silence trustees who disagreed with the board majority.
Oak Lawn trustees voted to postpone adopting a proposed amendment introducing additional Robert's Rules to the village code that the mayor claims will get board meetings back on track and limit "unnecessary fighting."
View the mayor's document of the proposed revised amendment.
Some felt that "subjective" language gave the chair or mayor too much authority in deciding whether items placed on the agenda are obstructive, improper or to further political purposes.
Starting with the public comments at Tuesday’s village board meeting, Dr. Sandra Bury attacked the proposed amendment as giving the mayor “sole authority” to control what is said and debated at village board meetings.
“This is not democracy,” Bury said, offering her comment as a resident and business owner. “Under the guise of preventing unnecessary fighting what you’re proposing tonight would completely silence the legal and proper representation of the taxpayers that might want to debate or explore issues that which you solely determine to be obstructive, improper and political.”
Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) called out Bury’s rumored political candidacy for the village board in the 2013 municipal election.
“It’s one thing to stand up and criticize the board as a resident, “ Streit said, “but I think in fairness you should also identify yourself as a person who has been meeting to run as a candidate with Trustee [Alex] Olejniczak because that would be truthful.”
Heilmann explained that the nine new additions he is proposing to be added to the municipal code affecting village board meetings are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, with exception of a rule limiting board members’ remarks to five minutes.
Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) expressed “serious concerns” moved to table the amendment.
“This is a government body that is here to debate. That’s the nature of the business,” Phelan said. “This is a business meeting that involves taxpayer money. People will disagree and when they disagree, there’s going to be debate and occasionally it’s not going to be pleasant.”
While he applauded the intent, Phelan complained that the proposed rules contained too much subjective language and subverted the manager-council form of government by giving too much authority to the village board president.
“The manager-council form of government doesn’t change this assembly,” Pehlan said. “You are telling us that you’re going to decide for us if something we want to talk about it political.”
Heilmann said that he wasn’t trying to repress public debate because the “rules already existed.”
“I’m not trying to impose my will on anybody,” the mayor continued. “The problem is that his board has too much fighting that is outside of what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Village Attorney Paul O’Grady admitted that he hadn’t had a chance to go over the mayor’s proposed amendment because he had just gotten back from vacation. He said the correct procedure was to postpone taking a vote indefinitely or until a certain date.
“I do agree that most of this looks like the rules have been lifted right out of Robert’s Rules, but you must ensure that the rules do not create an imbalance between the branches of government,” O’Grady said. “[The rules] must ensure that the rights of those in the minority aren’t trampled. That’s all you have to do.”
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