Updating the rules governing how the City Council does business and conducts meetings was supposed to be a routine matter, council members said in April.

The rules of order and procedure, as the guidelines are called, address mundane matters such as who sits where at meetings and what city department heads are required to attend.

A resolution to update the rules would be simple housecleaning ofa document that hasn't been updated since 1968, the council said.

But it wasn't until Monday night that the council finally reached consensus on the resolution.

"We're gonna soon have it beat to death," said Council President William F. Haifley.

The council passed the 18-page measure, but only after spending months on debating, rewriting, and even charges of political maneuvering.

For such a routine matter, the resolution's history is tangled and somewhat dubious.

Shortly before the May 13 council election -- in which two members lost their seats -- Mayor W. Benjamin Brown displayed what he said was a draft copy of the resolution.

The draft called for transferring the power to appoint members and chairmen to the council's standingcommittees from the mayor to the council president.

Brown chargedthat the measure was an effort by the former council -- with which the mayor had a stormy relationship -- to reduce further the authorityof the mayor.

Yet when the resolution finally landed before the council, it called for maintaining the mayor's power to appoint committee members.

The retooling of the resolution continued Monday.

Brown objected to a passage that would transfer the task of presidingover public hearings from the mayor to the council president.

"There is some benefit to having a non-voting member of this body chairing these hearings," he said.

The council agreed, and an amendment keeping that power with the mayor was approved and the resolution finally was passed.

But Brown made two other requests the council denied.

The mayor suggested an amendment to allow citizen comment after each agenda item at council meetings, rather than the current practice of scheduling that portion at the end of meetings.

Though citizen comment is listed at the end of the agenda, the council frequently takes input from the audience throughout public meetings. Haifley said there's no reason that practice could not continue.

The mayoralso wanted to delete a passage giving the council president the authority to order an unruly person removed from a meeting.

Brown said he wanted such removal to be subject to a vote by the council. However, the council agreed that if such a situation arose, prompt actionwould be needed, leaving little time for a vote.

Action on the measure already has been delayed by the council twice this summer.

Before Monday's vote, Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein suggested a workshop on the resolution. Councilman Edward S. Calwell requested thatit be returned to committee for further study.

"It may never return if we wait for everyone to be happy," Haifley said. "This didn't come about overnight."

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