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Morrow to consider order and decorum rules

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The City of Morrow had its first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that would introduce rules of order and decorum into its regular business meetings. The proposed ordinance comes a month after a conflict between the city's mayor, Jim Millirons, and Councilman John Lampl became public during the comments portion of the April 26 business meeting.

According to the ordinance, which will come before the council for a vote on June 8, the measure will govern the actions of council members involved in debate, in order to "ensure that order will be protected and the deliberative process of the City Council will be retained at all times."

City Manager and Public Works Director Jeff Eady said other cities have similar ordinances, and that this would clearly define the rules of engagement concerning debate among council members.

"A lot of cities have ordinances for decorum in council meetings, so, in case there is debate during the meeting, there will be some rules," Eady said. "They [council members] all have the right to debate, they just need to do it in an orderly fashion. We didn't have anything in place for that. This allows the comments to stay pretty germane to the topic."

Toward the close of the city's April 26 meeting, Lampl accused Millirons of using the office of mayor for personal gain. He cited an Aug. 23, 2006 property sale, in which Millirons' private real estate firm, Morrow Realty, Inc., made a $200,000 commission from Federated Retail Holdings, Inc., on the city's purchase of property at Southlake Mall, which now houses the Morrow Center.

Under the proposed ordinance, "members of the City Council desiring to speak shall first address the Chair [the mayor], gain recognition by the presiding officer, and confine himself or herself to the question under debate, avoiding personal attacks and indecorous language."

If adopted, remarks during debate would be limited to a total of three minutes during the "comments section" of the agenda and to five minutes during other portions of the agenda.

According to the ordinance, "after all who desire to speak on an item have spoken, members wishing to speak a second time shall be given two minutes by the presiding officer." A council member, once recognized "shall not be interrupted when speaking, except for a point of order and shall hold the floor until completion of his or her remarks or until the allotted time for speaking has elapsed."

The proposed ordinance states its intent is not to, "in any way, hinder or impair the full and free expression of the competing viewpoints," but is meant to "foster citizen confidence in government through encouraging civil, respectful meetings."

Eady said the ordinance borrows sections from the official "Robert's Rules of Order."

Lampl said Wednesday that he believes the ordinance was brought forth due to the topic of the April 26 discussion, not the tone. "From what I can tell, this ordinance came up after the meeting where he [Millirons] admitted to taking the money [from the Aug. 23, 2006 sale of the Morrow Center property]," Lampl said. "It's not really that it has to do with civility, it was because he [Millirons] didn't like what was said. I don't think it was an uncivilized meeting.

"It think it's redundant," he continued. "I would say 'Robert's Rules of Order' is much more in-depth. I definitely hope it's not limiting free speech ... that would be unfortunate."

Millirons declined to comment on Wednesday.