Vote outcome not right

It started out like a normal council meeting: the Pledge of Allegiance and all of the other formalities

Then it came time for my rezoning issue. There were comments, but very little debate, and some amendments and limitations were added. No problem.

The vote is taken: four in favor, two against. A majority vote. In fact, a two-thirds vote.
It passes, right?

That’s when things went south. The city attorney says, “The empty seats count as no votes.”

So now it’s four in favor, four against. The mayor breaks the tie with a vote against to make it four in favor, five against.

Now, it fails.

On the way home, I was thinking, how can this be? I got beat by two empty chairs.

I looked up the city code. If all council members had been present and they had abstained from voting, they would count as no votes.

Upon further reading, I found that when provisions are not made in the city code by the above rules, Robert’s Rules of Order (a book of parliamentary procedures that has been used for more than 130 years) shall be the authority.

Under Robert’s Rules, I found that no empty seats, or vacancies, are to be counted in any way. They are not a “no” vote, but a “non” vote.

Still, everyone I have talked to at the city says there is an ordinance that requires five votes to pass an ordinance.

I can’t find that ordinance.

What was needed, according to statute, is a majority of the members elected.

At the time, there were only six elected members on the Hastings City Council because of two resignations this summer. So, under those circumstances, four out of six should be the majority. State law requires that a first-class city must have at least four council members.

The statute does not give a number required to pass an ordinance, just a majority of the members elected. Vacant seats are not voting members.

I went back to Robert’s Rules for clarification. A majority of the entire membership “is a majority of the total number of those who are members of the voting members at the time of the vote.”

There was a quorum that night, so, according to statutes, the governing body is able to conduct any business, except as otherwise required by law.

In my case, all of the elected members present did vote. Every ward in the city was represented. The vote was 4 to 2 in favor.

The mayor’s vote is only necessary to break a tie, so that vote wasn’t needed. Even with the mayor’s vote, the count would still be 4 to 3 in favor.

The way this was interpreted by the city, I already had two votes against me before the meeting even started.

That’s not right. The city administration needs to go back and correct this error.

Jerry Goebel

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