Kootenay Lake trustees find an issue surrounding Robert's Rules of Order to be controversial.

Debating the Rules of Order in Nelson — Transparent trustees

A motion to include which school trustee opposes or abstains on votes in board minutes has proven controversial.

A motion to include which school trustee opposes or abstains on votes in board minutes has proven controversial in the Kootenay Lake School District.

The board passed a motion supporting the notation at a meeting last month only to have it brought back to the table this week with a hope of rescinding the resolution.

At September’s school board meeting trustee Lenora Trenaman put forward a motion that “trustee names are recorded for opposed or abstained votes in all board minutes.”

She says she brought this forward in the spirit of openness.

“Constituents have the right to know where we stand on issues,” Tranaman says.

The motion passed with City of Nelson trustee Bill Maslechko supporting it.

“I feel that as a board member I am there to support those things I believe in and those things I believe in should be known to the community,” he says. “If it’s not identified in what direction I voted then the community doesn’t know.”

Trustee Bob Wright, representing Nelson was opposed and posed a motion to rescind at Tuesday’s regular board meeting in Nelson.

He says his concern is not about the recording of opposed votes rather what the process would do to the way meetings are conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

“My concern is that recording opposed and abstained votes from all motions will slow the overall meeting process down,” he says. “To make the minutes accurate for everyone to view, all trustee’s names will have to be recorded on all motions, from adoption of the agenda to adjournment of the meeting.”

Wright says trustees have always had the right to have their names recorded as opposed. Their current policy also considers abstentions as neither negative nor affirmative.

“I have observed over many meetings that not all hands are raised on all motions, thus not giving a true reflection on the boards’ intentions,” he says.

The issue was raised on the Nelson List with Herb Couch concerned about constituents knowing how their trustee represents them.

“Nelson needs school trustees who are not afraid of transparency and accountability and who take responsibility for their actions,” he writes.

Wright doesn’t think attaching responsibility on decisions to a single board member is good for board cohesiveness. He says another detrimental issue this motion brings to School District 8 is a public division of the board.

“If minutes reflect individual trustees’ stance on a controversial motion in which they did/or did not want to be identified, then once the minutes are made public, the board motion can be used by the media and outside entities to persuade or influence individual board members,” he says. “A divided board does not serve students or the public, the only positive is the highlighting of the individual board members, not the board as a whole.”

Trenaman can see Wright’s perspective but argues “there is a strength in diversity” as well.

“When the board makes a decision, we have to stand by it,” she says. “We may not all have the same opinion but certainly we support what the board has resolved. That does not mean, however, that we have a fully united decision on it.”

Wright’s motion to rescind was defeated at Tuesday’s meeting.