The long-running debate involving the Troy City Council's Sanctuary City resolution was almost defeated by an issue of protocol.
For months on end, the Troy City Council has struggled with crafting so-called “sanctuary city” legislation. There were heated arguments over many sessions. Long lines of people spoke for and against the proposal at various civic meetings, some dismissing the proposal as “political grandstanding.”
Push finally came to shove in mid-July, when Democratic councilors, having tweaked Sanctuary City Resolution 113, rebranding it the Families and Communities Together, or FACT act, continued debating as they prepared to vote during a raucous four-hour public meeting. Suddenly, Republican Council President Carmella Mantello tried to invalidate the measure by invoking "Robert's Rules of Order," a standard the
Council previously embraced to run meetings with maximum fairness to all members. "What I'm saying folks is that there is no Resolution 113. Please hear me out. Per Robert's Rules it had to have been voted untabled at that meeting in January."
Some councilors said they didn’t know anything about any “Robert’s Rules.”
Passion and tension during the marathon meeting took their toll — GOP Councilmember Jim Gulli reached a breaking point. "For six months I've listened to the same story four different times. There are a lot of people being affected emotionally, passionately and angrily over this issue. We've done this many times. I just drove three hours away to come down here tonight and settle this issue and to get it off the floor one way or another."
Mantello says "Robert's Rules" helps keep motions, proposals and other council procedures on track. "Robert's Rules is our backup for any city council rules that aren't covered. Our city council rules do not cover tabled items, so we refer to Robert's Rules. And that's on several several fronts."
"Like any sport or any game, you need to know what the rules are in order to behave properly at that sporting event or in that game," said Jim Slaughter, a North Carolina-based attorney who is a "certified Parliamentarian," an expert on "Robert's Rules." What are "Robert's Rules?" Slaughte explains "It may be easier to ask 'What is Parliamentary Procedure?’ Parliamentary Procedure is all of the rules and laws that go into running a legal and effective meeting. So it's everything from noticing a meeting, how the meeting is run, how do you take votes at the meeting, so it's everything that goes into a meeting. Robert's Rules Of Order is a Parliamentary Procedure book. There are other Parliamentary Procedure books, but Robert's Rules Of Order, newly revised 11th edition, is the 800 pound gorilla of the Parliamentary Procedure law."
The book is used by organizations from governmental bodies to homeowner associations.
In the end the council did vote - 4 to 3 - to pass the FACT act. Mayor Patrick Madden vetoed the measure the very next day. The issue remains “up in the air.”
And who's Robert? According to robertsrules.com, Henry Martyn Robert was an Army engineering officer who was asked to preside over a public meeting at a church and realized that he did not know how. He was so embarrassed, he studied books on Parliamentary procedure, and in 1876 published what came to be known as "Robert's Rules Of Order." He died in 1923 in Steuben County, New York, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.