McComb Mayor Quordiniah Lockley may yet have his powers restored, but Tuesday night’s attempt was deterred by Robert and his Rules of Order.
Selectman Michael Cameron asked to have the matter put on the agenda for the meeting after he was absent from a special called meeting on Aug. 30. At that meeting the board amended five ordinances to remove powers from the mayor, reassign some powers to the city administrator, redefine how some meetings are run and lay out an appeals process for employees suspended or terminated by the administrator.
In Cameron’s absence, the vote for the amendments was 3-2, with Ronnie Brock, Donovan Hill and Devante Johnson in favor, Ted Tullos and Shawn Williams opposed.
The request by Cameron was sent out by City Administrator Dirkland Smith on Monday, after the agenda and docket had been distributed on Friday. That led Johnson to object, saying notice was not given properly.
Lockley said the board needed to amend the agenda before the matter could be discussed, and he and Johnson argued back and forth until board attorney Angela Cockerham said Johnson was making a point of order that should be discussed before voting on the agenda addition.
The mayor elected to have a vote solely on adding an executive session to the agenda at that point, and the board returned to the issue after the executive session in which three items were discussed and no action was taken.
After the executive session, Lockley again sought to add the rescission of the amended ordinances to the agenda, and again, Johnson objected.
“The notice was sent Monday,” Johnson said. “It should have been added to the agenda Thursday and sent Friday.”
Brock brought up a procedural point that he had used before to derail attempts to rescind prior board actions: Cameron was not part of the winning faction in the vote, since he was absent.
However, Cockerham said only a motion to reconsider, made in the same meeting as the action to be reconsidered, must come from the prevailing side.
“If it’s not a motion to reconsider, it doesn’t matter ... if it comes from a member of the prevailing party or not,” she said.
Consideration of rescinding an action taken in a previous meeting can be part of a meeting’s regular call or an addendum to the agenda, but the proportion of votes needed to win differs.
Such an item added to the regular call — i.e. the agenda sent out beforehand — can pass with a majority of those present and voting. Something added after the call is issued needs a two-thirds affirmative vote to pass.
“The notice wasn’t proper,” Johnson said. “The docket was set, so it will take two-thirds to prevail.”
“Where does it say that?” Cameron asked.
“Robert’s Rules of Order,” Cockerham replied.
Johnson pointed out that a handout from Smith also explained that piece of parliamentary procedure.
After a recess, Cockerham read the relevant section from Robert’s Rules, and Hill, Johnson and Lockley all tried to get to the bottom of what constitutes proper notice.
It was Hill who cut to the chase, asking Cockerham, “In your legal opinion, would this ned a majority, or two-thirds?”
“Two-thirds ... based on the custom and practice this board has established,” Cockerham said. “You as a board can change that.”
Cameron insisted that the notice sent Monday should suffice, but Cockerham said it was “not timely.”
Lockley waved a white flag then and ruled that the board should skip the item and add it to the next agenda.