Well, you had to see this coming...after the last minute "work session" when Mayor Foster was out of town, the new punitive proposals for this seasons incoming vendors was placed on tonight's agenda. Be there at 7:00 pm and see for yourselves what your Town Council thinks about "due process" and the Constitutional "rights of the accused".
Also on tonight's agenda, a proposal to hijack the Mayor's lawful control of the meeting and give the invocation to a rotating list of local clergy. Like it or not, the law on this is clear and any request for "divine guidance" must be non denominational to the point that a "Christian" prayer which mentions "Jesus" is over the line. A brief moment of silence is acceptable, so here's a novel suggestion to our self serving officials, don't break the law on this one folks!
Our Police Chief has placed an item on tonight's agenda to put you in prison for 4 months, if you feed the wildlife. I wonder how he intends to collect the evidence required for a conviction...an image of Jeff crawling around the desert with a plastic baggie picking up coyote and hawk droppings for forensic analysis of "people food" does bring a smile to my face though. Way to earn that huge salary Jeff! By the way you overpaid moron, we already have a state law that says this is a "petty offense".
And topping my list for exposing the Town to another lawsuit is a proposal for your council to usurp the Mayor's authority and remove their critics from future meetings. The arrogance of this is beyond comprehension as the law is not only very clear, but the recent "training session" reinforced the rights of the citizen to protected "political speech" at the meeting from which no citizen may legally be barred from attending. Even "disorderly conduct" under this limited forum may not exceed a $20 fine, according to "Decorum of Council Meetings" on the website for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns. I hope everyone is paying attention to the law - just bring $20 to the meetings in case you have to post your bond! See you tonight!
Decorum of Council Meetings
Each month, Jeri Kishiyama Auther, League staff attorney, will answer different legal questions that she receives from cities and towns. These questions are for general information only. If you, as a city or town elected official and employee, have a specific legal question, always check with your city or town attorney.
A frequent question from council members has to do with decorum and control of council meetings. Council members inquire about proper conduct at meetings, and whether the Council may sanction another Council member if a Council member disobeys parliamentary procedure or becomes disorderly during a meeting.
Surprisingly, an Arizona statute addresses this particular issue. A.R.S. § 9-234, originally adopted in 1901, states:
A. The common council shall judge the elections, qualifications and returns of its members. It may prescribe rules for the government of its proceedings, may punish any member or other person for disorderly conduct at any meeting of the council by a fine not exceeding twenty dollars, and by imprisonment until the payment of the fine, and with the concurrence of four councilmen may expel any member, but not a second time for the same cause. Emphasis added.
The foregoing statute allows a number of things, including adopting rules of procedure, punishing not only a Councilperson, but any "disorderly" person, by assessing a fine and imprisonment, or expulsion of the Councilperson from the meeting.
Some cities and towns have adopted ordinances for rules of procedure for public meetings. Examples include:
• No Council member may interrupt another Council member, except to make a point of order or of personal privilege. If the Council member continues to "break the rules" the presiding officer may call the Council member to order, at which time the Council member shall cease speaking, but may "appeal" the presiding officer's decision immediately to the entire Council. If the appeal is denied, the Council member shall remain silent. Further, the Council member is subject to censure "or other punishment as the Council, by a three-quarters vote, deems just and proper under the law." City of Phoenix Municipal Code, Sec. 2-60, Rule 6.
• The Mayor or Mayor Pro Tempore "shall preserve order and decorum, decide all questions of order and conduct the proceedings of the meetings … ." City of Scottsdale Municipal Code, Sec. 2-37.
• The Mayor shall preserve strict order and decorum at the meetings and may appoint a sergeant-at-arms at the Council meetings, whose responsibility is to carry out all orders and instructions given by the mayor for the purpose of maintaining order and decorum. The sergeant-at-arms has the authority to remove any person (including a Council member) who violates the order and decorum of the meeting. If a member of the public makes "personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks, or who becomes boisterous while addressing the council, or who interferes with the order of business before the council, and who fails upon request of the mayor to cease the activity, shall be barred from further audience before the council for the remainder of that meeting unless permission to continue is granted by majority vote of the council." Official Code of the Town of Marana, Sec. 2- 4-3 and Sec. 2-4-7.
• The Mayor may assess a fine of not more than $25.001 upon any Council member for disorderly conduct at a Council meeting upon a concurring vote of three Council members, and the Council member may be imprisoned until payment of the fine. Additionally, any Council member may be expelled for any cause determined sufficient by the Council upon a vote of five Council members and the judgment of the Council as to the causes for fine or expulsion shall be conclusive (nonappealable). Official Code of the City of Mesa, Sec. 1-5-5
These examples range from "preserving decorum," to censure, to fines and imprisonment of both Council members and members of the public. Some municipalities allow appeals of the punishment, or punishment only upon vote of the Council, and in some ordinances, super majority votes. Short of adopting an ordinance, a Council could also choose to initiate a set of rules or Council procedures that would be agreed to by all members.
Common Council municipalities, which are the smaller municipalities, have A.R.S. § 9-234 as an available tool to preserve decorum of Council meetings without any implementing ordinance. Arizona case law does not exist regarding this particular clause of the statute. If your Council is unsure of how to exercise this statute, please consult your City or Town Attorney.
A.R.S. § 9-234 limits the fine to $20.00.
League of Arizona Cities and Towns
1820 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007