Old Bridge Township Council wants to change meeting rules

OLD BRIDGE — To avoid the recent confusion and back and forth discussions, the Old Bridge Township Council wants to eliminate Robert’s Rules of Order from the conduct of meetings and formulate their own rules.

Robert’s Rules of Order, published by Henry Martyn Robert in 1876, is a manual of parliamentary procedure of a set of rules for conducting orderly meetings that govern most organizations with boards of directors.

Councilman-at-Large Brian Cahill discussed the possibility of eliminating Robert’s Rules at a council meeting on Sept. 24. He said Robert’s Rules is only mentioned once in the council’s conduct code.

“I’m sure [Robert’s Rules] was implemented with good reason and a lot of municipalities follow it, but if you read Robert’s Rules, it’s very, very convoluted,” he said.

Cahill said, for example, the new rules would contain how the council would follow the agenda and how any council person and/or member of the public has to be recognized by the council president.

“[Therefore] we can avoid some of the things that have occurred at the last meetings,” he said.

Township Attorney Mark Roselli said Robert’s Rules of Order is an arcane system.

“The individual who drafted the rules was from Great Britain. … I think he was a commander in the military,” he said. “The joke is he is really the only one who truly understands [the rules].”

Roselli discussed the importance of the council’s code of conduct at a council meeting in August after some council members had a heated back and forth discussion at the July meeting on the dais.

Ward 5 Councilman Tony Paskitti said he was in favor of the elimination of Robert Rule’s; however, he said he would like to see the new rules before they are implemented.

“There are things in Robert’s Rules that make sense and keep things in an orderly fashion,” he said.

Roselli said there are already conduct code provisions in place regarding meetings.

“A lot of it is common sense,” he said. “The big thing about Robert’s Rules really has to do with dealing with when motions are made and when things are tabled and coming off the table.”

Roselli said the starting point is to look at the current code and fill in some of the gaps the council may feel need to be included.

“It certainly does not have to be Robert’s Rules,” he said.

Council President Mary Sohor nominated Cahill to chair a rules committee for purposes of developing procedures to review the code provisions and draft new rules for the council. Ward 4 Councilman Mark Razzoli and Roselli will also serve on the committee.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.