The Leander City Council could finally be adopting an official Council Rules of Order and Procedure in the near future after voting Thursday to authorize drafting rules outlining how council meetings should be conducted and rules of conduct for council members.
The council voted unanimous 5-to-0 with Council members Christine Sederquist and Michelle Stephenson absent to authorize Mayor Pro Tem Chris Czernek to work with the City Attorney and the City Secretary to draft the rules. Each council member will independently submit their suggestions for what they want to see emphasized in the rules to the City Secretary and the three will use them to help craft their draft rules.
Czernek said he thinks he will be able to bring a draft back before the council at the Aug. 15 or Sept. 5 meeting for further discussion, review and possible passage.
Leander Mayor Troy Hill said he thinks the proposal “is a great idea” because the lack of clear rules has forced the council to “make it up as we go, which makes it difficult for us to be consistent.”
“In today’s society, where people will sue at the drop of a hat, I don’t think that’s very responsible,” Hill said. “This council has seen it where people get emotional. They say things that, quite frankly, they probably shouldn’t say.”
Council member Marci Cannon concurred, stating “We’re trying to elevate our professionalism up here.”
Czernek said previous councils had repeatedly discussed creating rules but it fell by the wayside each time. He said nearly all cities Leander's size have similar rules.
The council and future councils could be more efficient by having clear rules like how meetings should be run when the mayor is absent, Czernek said, and debates could be resolved by having agreed upon rules to refer to “instead of emotions getting involved.”
“This is something that could be looked at yearly. This is something that we can add on to it. I’m not suggesting we do something that could be overreaching. I’m just suggesting we do some simple stuff that could help us as a council, and for future councils,” Czernek said.
However, Hill did drift into talking about how the public interacts with the council when discussing his support for these rules.
“You know, addressing your government isn’t a license to just insult people, to just sit out there and do it. Quite frankly, with everything that’s going on, whether it’s open records requests or this type of thing just on and on, it’s making it difficult for people to want to do this quite frankly.”
Czernek said he hasn't considered addressing how public information is requested for this agenda item.
He said he does want to address all types of communications involving council members, city staff or citizens with these rules so "everyone has a voice and everyone respects one another no matter what is being expressed."