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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

County council settles on its rules for 2016

Mielke, Madore object that chosen procedure will silence minority

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: May 17, 2016, 5:57pm

It was the same old story for the Clark County council on Tuesday: A lengthy debate, heated public testimony and a 3-2 vote over the issue at hand.

In what’s become a weekly variation on a familiar theme, in a split vote the Clark County council adopted its rules of procedure and code of ethics for the year, despite protests by Republicans Tom Mielke and David Madore that the document does not bind the council to “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

The Clark County council has been discussing its rules of procedure, which are re-adopted with updates every year, since its January board retreat. The council has revisited the rules in several board time meetings since, and Assistant County Manager Bob Stevens has several times encouraged each councilor to submit recommendations for edits. The 12-page document outlines subjects that to any unsuspecting individual might seem banal: definition of a quorum, how to set agendas and the council’s code of ethics.

But Tuesday, the council had a heated debate over a section of the document dealing with the rules of procedure. Madore and Mielke both said not adhering to “Robert’s Rules of Order,” a method for parliamentary procedure, would silence the minority voice on the board. The rules of procedure advise that Robert’s Rules can be used as a reference for conducting meetings, but the council does not need to adhere to them. That’s a slight shift from previous language, which said Roberts Rules “shall govern” in cases where existing rules don’t cover the council’s needs.

Did You Know?

 “Robert’s Rules of Order,” which outlines a system of parliamentary procedure, was published in 1876.

 Henry Martyn Robert had a major role in the 1859 Pig War on San Juan Island, a famous border skirmish between the U.S. and Britain.

 Many years later, Robert was inspired to write “Rules” after being asked to preside over a meeting at his church.

In recent months, Madore and Mielke have voted in the minority on a number of controversial subjects, a shift from the past two years when they enjoyed the majority position on the council.

“There have been times that we’ve been shut down,” Mielke complained.

But Chair Marc Boldt, no party preference, said the minority on the council — Madore and Mielke — have had no problem getting their points across. If one were to go back and determine how long each councilor had spoken, Boldt said, it would likely be that the pair has taken the majority of the time since the beginning of the year.

“We have to have some options of getting something done, or else we would sit here until midnight,” Boldt said.

The decision came despite overwhelming criticism from a handful of citizens, including conservative activist Christian Berrigan, who has become a frequent and bombastic commenter at recent meetings.

Berrigan, the state committeeman for the Clark County Republican Party, came equipped with his own copy of “Robert’s Rules.” He waved the thick book directly at a wall-mounted camera used to broadcast the meeting on CVTV.

“This is a disaster,” Berrigan said, urging the council to evaluate the rules through the eyes of the council minority.

Another frequent commenter, Susan Rasmussen, called the proposed rules a “slap in the face.” She said it would allow one side of the council to dominate over the other.

“Ultimately, it’s a degradation of the citizens of this county,” Rasmussen said.

Columbian Education Reporter