The Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission may do away with Robert’s Rules of Order.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, County Counselor Mark Vincent said the board may need to adapt its own meeting procedures instead of relying on Robert’s Rules of Order. Earlier this year the board was challenged on a decision it made because it didn’t properly follow Robert’s Rules.

First published in 1876, Robert’s Rules of Order is a commonly used manual for parliamentary procedure. The plan board’s bylaws state the group follows Robert’s Rules and commission Chairman Bill Evans carries a copy of the manual to meetings.

Vincent said the board follows the spirit of the rules, but not the actual rules. Planning Director Scottie Eagan said she recently reviewed the book and there were several inconsistencies with how the meetings are run and how the meetings are supposed to be run according to Robert’s Rules.

For example, Eagan said Robert’s Rules require all speakers to stand and address only the chairman. Other rules require board members to only speak when recognized by the chairman.

Vincent said the board can agree to rewrite its bylaws and come up with its own procedure. He said he’s done it for other groups and all that’s required is to make sure due process is being followed.

“Where you get into trouble is where you have adopted something specific and don’t follow it,” he said.

Vincent said the board would need to address things like when does a chairman vote, what happens in a tie and other common occurrences. The Board of Zoning Adjustment (BOZA) does not follow Robert’s Rules and instead uses its own procedure in its bylaws.

Board members agreed a change would be helpful instead of having to learn Robert’s Rules and change how meetings are run. However, the board wanted to see examples of how other groups that don’t use Robert’s Rules operate.

The board said it would address the issue at its next meeting with examples of different bylaws.

Reason for Change

The plan board was called out for not following Robert’s Rules at an April BOZA meeting.

Opposition to a conditional use permit for a mining operation near St. Clair pointed out the board failed to follow the proper procedure when the permit was awarded. When the plan board voted in December 2016, it was deadlocked in a 5-5 tie.

After a discussion, the board revoted and Commissioner Bill McLaren flipped his vote, giving Meramec Aggregates the CUP by a 6-4 vote.

Kim Lynch and The Citizens for the Preservation of the Meramec River appealed that decision at April’s BOZA meeting. But Lynch said her group should have never had to file an appeal because technically the vote was still deadlocked at 5-5.

She said according to Robert’s Rules of Order, a certain procedure had to be followed in order to get a revote. Based on transcripts, she said the board failed to follow the Rules of Order, meaning the 6-4 vote was improper.

Lynch cited a case of City of San Antonio v. El Dorado Amusement Co. Inc. as precedent. She said in that case the courts found that the second vote was improper and invalid.

Lynch argued that if the second vote was invalid, the permit never passed. She said a tie is not an approval by county bylaws, therefore her group should have never had to file an appeal.

Lynch’s appeal is currently in Franklin County Circuit Court.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Evans admitted the error. He said he felt he like the vote wouldn’t have changed had the proper procedure been followed, but said the vote was still done in the wrong fashion.