Conducting a Public Meeting of the Voters
General Information on Conducting a Public Meeting of the Voters
Section 129 of The Municipalities Act speaks to the manner in which a public meeting of voters may be arranged; however, it does not detail how such a meeting is to be conducted.
In the absence of statutory requirements, one has to rely on generally accepted rules of parliamentary procedure when conducting a public meeting of the voters. Authorities on parliamentary procedure have written many books on the topic, most of which are available at book stores or libraries. Examples that you might want to research are Roberts' Rules of Order, Bourinot's Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure at a Glance by O. Garfield Jones.
Public meetings of the voters may be held to provide the public with information or to gather public input regarding a particular municipal matter or concern. When such a meeting is held as the result of a petition, the petition generally indicates what the topic of discussion will be. Voters are also usually given the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions.
As these meetings are not council meetings, decisions affecting the municipality cannot be made; only council, at a duly held council meeting, can make decisions. The voters may make suggestion and recommendations, but these are not binding on council. Since this is a public meeting of the voters, the voters may run the meeting with council being present to answer questions and listen to concerns.
One issue to be addressed is that of meeting officials - a chairperson and perhaps a secretary. If a secretary is appointed, consideration should be given to the following:
In many situations, the municipal administrator may prepare notes for council's consideration at a future council meeting. The municipal record of the meeting, if one is prepared, should avoid verbatim comments and instead focus on key discussion points. Verbatim comments may be repetitious, irrelevant, inflammatory or incomplete and attempting to capture every word may result in the oversight of critical points.
The selection of the chairperson may be contingent upon the purpose for and the manner in which the meeting has been called.
The chairperson is responsible solely for making the meeting run smoothly and without disruption. The chairperson should be impartial and not take part in any debate. He or she should be knowledgeable about parliamentary procedures - someone who is seen by the community as non-partisan and technically able to run a meeting. The chairperson conducts the meeting in a manner agreed to by those present.
It is a good practice for the chairperson to go over certain "ground rules" and to get agreement from the attendees on these rules before discussion starts. Some "ground rules" that the chairperson might want to consider are: