First goal deadline and Board Rules

First goal deadline – Feb. 1st! Thanks to all of you who have endorsed me online and thanks to those who have sent contributions! I’m so pleased and appreciative when I look over the list posted here (see Endorsements, above) and see your names! Thank you!

If you plan to do either but haven’t yet, I still need help reaching the goal by Feb. 1st (see previous posting). So far, endorsements are up to 77 and contributions are lagging behind.

Board Rules. Next Tuesday is a big day. I have proposed new rules and procedures to govern Board meetings and agenda preparation and we’ll be discussing them then (below is the text of the Memo for the Board’s consideration). It would be great to get consensus to adopt them, but I anticipate some resistance to a few of the critical revisions.

Tuolumne County is somewhat unusual in my experience in that the Board Chair hasn’t had the ability or authority granted by the Board to take part in the agenda formulation process. In fact, what’s on the agenda tends to be revealed to the Chair and the Board at the same time the final agenda is made public under the Brown Act. Of course, a Board member who seeks that information gets it, but at the very least, the Chair should be an integral part of agenda formulation and approval. 

Perhaps because some past Boards have not worked as a team,  there has been a practice of limiting the Chair so a “bad” Chair can’t unduly influence things. That can be a good thing, but it also can make it difficult for a Board that wants to set its own course and work together toward common interests.

Our current County Administrative Officer has done a great job in elevating the Board’s role in driving policy and focusing staff on Board goals. I believe the proposed changes will augment his efforts and make us more effective.

It’s a fairly typical process for the Board to revise its rules and procedures. Some of the proposed changes to the system are of concern to staff, but will provide greater clarity and more timely delivery of information to the Board and public. If you would like to review them, please click above on “Proposed BOS Rules.”

If you’d like to attend and comment publically for or against them, email me and I’ll give you an approximate time the item will be in front of us. As always, you can listen to our regular Board meetings on Tuesdays live online at You just won’t get to talk back!


TO:                              Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors

FROM:                       Teri Murrison, Board Chair

DATE:                        Jan. 23, 2009

ITEM TITLE:       Review and direction to Chair on revisions to proposed Board Rules for 2009.

Attached is a copy of proposed revisions to our existing Board of Supervisors Rules and Regulations (Board Rules). The proposed revision differs significantly in format and content. This memo serves to clarify proposed revisions, as well to explain the necessity for them. I look forward to our meeting when we will deliberate and consider these revisions. I have also attached a copy of the existing Board Rules Resolution No. 11-06 and a summary guide to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised for your information.

This Board of Supervisors is responsible for governing the county and we are held accountable by our constituents and the general public for doing so. Consequently, we must exercise our statutory prerogative to make sure that the vision advanced and the decisions made emanate from the Board and that the public has access to processes and information. As you know, governing in a manner that instills and reinforces public confidence is of paramount importance, especially in these trying times. Over the last few years we have made great strides with the assistance of our CAO and department staff, but there is still much more to be done. The public looks to this Board for vision, leadership, information, and transparency.

The changes proposed allow the Board to be proactive and strategically establish the tone and agenda not only for our meetings, but for decisions that will impact the future of county residents. They are not meant to enable the Board or its Chair to micro-manage or make staff’s work more difficult (although some of the proposed changes revise existing procedures). The revisions are meant to bring about a correction in the existing system where the Board typically responds to staff-initiated policy and priorities and to involve the Board in a significant and meaningful way beyond mere decision-making. They bring the Board into the process before the final decision. 

When studying the existing Board Rules, I found the document’s organization confusing. As incoming Chair, the proposed revisions were initiated to make the Rules’ organization/format more intuitive and to help me understand how our Board has traditionally operated. I reviewed Board Rules from ten or more California counties to learn how other Boards function and consulted Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, as well. I learned that while Board Rules vary to some extent, their adoption is up to the discretion of the individual Board adopting them and are updated relatively frequently. There is great latitude in establishing governance procedures as long as the basic statutes such as the Brown Act and other similar statutes are honored.

So, the bottom line is that this Board is free to adopt any rules and regulations with regard to governing itself as long as they don’t conflict with existing statutes established by state and federal government. Where existing county policies conflict with these rules, the Board may simply revise the ordinance that conflicts to bring it into compliance with these rules. Further, while I have the desire to be proactive in inserting the Board back into the process, future Boards (even this same Board under a different Chair) may wish to revert to the existing policy and/or adopt new Rules. In fact, it might be advisable to review the Rules annually anyway.

The Rules as proposed allow for Board control of the Chair should he or she arbitrarily begin to advance a personal agenda versus operating to advance the Board’s collaborative agenda. Any of the Board Rules can be overturned by a majority vote of members present at a special, emergency, or regular meeting. Staff has expressed a concern that a Chair with authority to approve an agenda could act to obstruct items from being included. A possible way to guard against that would be to resubmit the item with another Board member as sponsor, in which case the item’s inclusion would be guaranteed.

Board Rules exist to serve the Board and establish overarching parameters for how we get the public’s business done. Good rules result in greater transparency, an institutionalization of best management practices, and reflect the will of the entire Board. Of course, it is extremely important that the Board has the confidence that the Chair will not abuse the process. I assure you that my intent is not to take advantage, but to facilitate Board input and public access to the process. Safeguards exist or can be attached to these rules to avoid that.

Our existing Board Rules contain many good and useful procedures, but also contain some that limit the public’s access, our efficacy, and that of our staff, as well. I have attempted to note all of the changes so as to make your review less arduous, but it is possible that I missed something. Consequently, please read carefully. The attached proposed new Rules identify most, if not all of the major changes.

I’d like your input on eliminating SECTION 10 entirely since meeting procedure is covered within Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. I believe that Section was included in our Rules to educate the Board, vs. establish policy distinct from Robert’s Rules

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Provide direction to Chair on revisions to proposed new Board Rules for 2009 and direct them to be brought back to the Board for approval.

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