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Meetings are the means by which a person or group can exercise choice and affect outcomes. Generally, there are two different types of meetings that a local government will focus on. These are decision or policy-making meetings and information sharing meetings (either to get public comments or brainstorming work sessions). The purpose of meetings is to hear from all concerned parties and ensure that all opinions are considered in the decision making process.
Under state law there are certain rules that a local government must follow for conducting meetings; however, aside from these rules there are standards that help to ensure that meetings are effective.
Some basic rules for ensuring an effective meeting:
Why does a governing body need a meeting procedure?
The practical reasons for having a meeting procedure in place is that it eliminates chaos and lessens the possibility that the decision making process will be unreliable (arbitrary and capricious).
There are also legal requirements that must be met in the meeting process that an established procedure helps to ensure. These are:
Generally, the preferred practice is "Robert's Rules of Order" or "Parliamentary Procedure." These can sometimes be confusing because of the specialized language used to describe the process and the level of detail presented. Generally, small local governments can conduct business by incorporating only a limited part of these in their official procedure and incorporating the rest of the process by reference. We have included some of the most common terms and simplified sample guidelines for conducting a meeting, from making a motion to voting.
Generally, brainstorming and work sessions are less formal than a regular meeting or public hearing.
What are the minimum mandatory requirements of a local government for conducting meetings?
Under state law AS 29.20.160, a municipality must:
Who enforces the rules?
Under state law, a local governing body elects a presiding officer and a deputy presiding officer from among its members. In a borough that has adopted the manager form of government and in cities, the mayor is the presiding officer. Under AS 29.20.380(10), the clerk acts as "parliamentary advisor".
Essentially, the presiding officer enforces the rules by following them when conducting a meeting and, when there is a question of procedure, the clerk would research the question and propose a resolution, which the presiding officer rules on. Members of the public also enforce the rules by questioning whenever something occurs that doesn't seem to follow the rules. The last resort for enforcement is a lawsuit.
Department of Community and Economic Development (Commerce) Local Government Specialists provide training on conducting effective meetings and are available to answer questions of procedure. The Alaska Municipal League (AML) also provides training.
What are the duties of the "Meeting Chair" or "Presiding Officer" at a public meeting?
The duties of the meeting chair are to organize and handle any pre-meeting needs, direct the flow of the meeting, ensure order, and ensure follow-up.
Before the meeting the presiding officer should ensure that:
During the meeting the presiding officer should ensure that:
An important point to keep in mind is that it is not the responsibility of the presiding officer to make the decision and use the meeting to inform the participants of the decision. All members of the body need to be involved in the decision-making process.
What are the duties of the governing body at a public meeting?
What are some suggestions for ensuring decisions made at the meeting are followed up?
Create an action/implementation plan and assign responsibility. The best run meeting is not of much use if there is no implementation.
Parliamentary Procedure is a formal set of rules and procedures for conducting a meeting of an organized group and is the most commonly used process for meetings. The purpose of Parliamentary Procedure is to:
The "Local Government Handbook" chapter on City Council Meetings provides detailed information on conducting meetings and using parliamentary procedure.
Alaska Statutes and Regulations