Point of Disorder in Annapolis


The Annapolis City Council would be well advised to take a fraction of its touted $2 million budget surplus and buy a few copies of Robert's Rules of Order.

Several aldermen expressed confusion over which version of the city's capital budget they approved on Monday night. Alderman Dean Johnson questioned whether the council had voted for the mayor's version or the version endorsed by the council's finance committee. Alderman Louise Hammond said that no matter which budget was approved, the vote ought to be rendered moot because it came after 11 p.m., violating a city law that prohibits the council from taking late-night actions.

Although some of the confusion may have been due to the aldermen receiving the final version of the $20 million budget only a couple days before the vote, the budget has been discussed in open meetings for weeks. And when the council convened on Monday, the document attached to the budget resolution was marked as the revised version, so it obviously was not the mayor's original.

When the council started to take up the budget, it was after 11 p.m., and Mrs. Hammond objected.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins ruled her objection out of order, the council voted, and the budget was approved 5-3 with one abstention. But the mayor's ruling was wrong. Mrs. Hammond's motion to delay the vote was proper under the rules of parliamentary procedure. However, because she failed to appeal to the city attorney, her motion was ignored. She asked the lawyer afterward whether the budget vote was legal, but by then it was too late.

Even if the council had followed proper procedures, the outcome probably would not have been different. The mayor had his five votes for the budget and they were unlikely to agree to a delay. And although it's clear that the council approved the finance committee's budget, even if it had adopted the nearly identical mayor's version, the bottom-line expenditure would have been the same.

So the whole hullabaloo is pointless except to show once again that the Annapolis City Council is sorely lacking in order and discipline. Reviewing the rules of parliamentary procedure won't make the aldermen more wise, but at least it would make them appear less ignorant.

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