Lawton Council adopts rules of decorum
Members of the City Council now have specific rules of decorum to follow when conducting meetings, as do residents who attend those meetings.
The decision, which came Tuesday during a council meeting, also will allow the mayor to order residents who don't follow those same rules to be removed from the meeting, although that tactic is specifically banned when it comes to members of the council.
The decision comes on the heels of recent meetings where discussions turned heated and insults and other provocative language was used by both elected officials and members of the audience, including debate about the need for a charter review process. In late February, a consent agenda item turned into a heated argument about City Manager Jerry Ihler and city staff. Toward the end of the discussion, Mayor Fred Fitch ordered Ward 5 Councilman Dwight Tanner to be escorted from a council meeting. Tanner, who has since apologized, agreed that night to leave on his own.
That couldn't happen again under the rules of decorum proposed by Ward 3 Councilman Caleb Davis and approved by seven of the eight council members (Ward 2 Councilman Keith Jackson was the lone "no" vote). While there are actions and comments that are banned under the amended council policy and a requirement for a "cooling off" period when tempers rise, the new rules specify that "In no event will a member of the governing body be removed from the meeting area while the meeting is still in active session."
Davis said his proposal is "basically a decorum issue," but also clarifies that Robert's Rules of Order also are to be used to conduct meetings on issues that aren't addressed by the council policy itself.
"This is the one where we have to be nice to each other?" asked Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren.
The new regulations, set within the policy that the council itself adopted to govern its activities, specifies that all members of the governing body "are expected to conduct themselves during Council meetings in a dignified and orderly manner." It specifically bans threats, personal attacks, demeaning comments, negative comments about private business or financial matters, yelling and similar actions. If such activities occur, the mayor is directed to take control of the meeting and, if that fails, to recess for a "cooling off" period. Once the meeting is reconvened, if order still has not been restored, the meeting is to be continued.