Thursday, August 20, 2015

Authority To Remove From Council Meetings

The 'Presiding Member' 
can expel from a meeting

A couple of incidents recently required Mayor McKay to have someone expelled from the SHAW Auditorium during a council meeting. The first when someone displaying a sign refused to put it down, and second when someone had placed several pairs of flip flop sandals on the railing in front of the gallery and refused to remove them when asked.

The British Columbia Community Charter is very specific about rulings made by the presiding member at a meeting and their power to have someone expelled whom they deem to be acting improperly.

The specific sections of the Charter which apply:

Authority of presiding member
132  (1) The mayor or the member presiding at a council meeting must preserve order and decide points of order that may arise, subject to an appeal under this section.
(2) On an appeal by a council member from a decision of the presiding member under subsection (1), the question as to whether the chair is to be sustained must be immediately put by the presiding member and decided without debate.
(3) As exceptions to section 123 [general voting rules],
(a) the mayor or other presiding member may not vote on a motion under subsection (2),
(b) the motion passes in the affirmative if the votes are equal, and
(c) the mayor or other presiding member must be governed by the result.
(4) If the mayor or presiding member refuses to put the question under subsection (2),
(a) the council must immediately appoint another member to preside temporarily,
(b) that other member must proceed in accordance with subsection (2), and
(c) a motion passed under this subsection is as binding as if passed under subsection (2).

Expulsion from meetings
133  (1) If the person presiding at a council meeting considers that another person at the meeting is acting improperly, the person presiding may order that the person is expelled from the meeting.

(2) If a person who is expelled does not leave the meeting, a peace officer may enforce the order under subsection (1) as if it were a court order.

It is clear reading the above sections of the Charter that any ruling coming from the presiding member may be appealed by any council member. Once that appeal has been made which requires no discussion or debate, the matter is to be put to an immediate vote of council in which the presiding member does not participate. In the event of a tie vote it is decided in the affirmative. 

It is also clear that it would appear the presiding member may also expel another person at the meeting they consider to be acting improperly. Taken on it's own it would appear this decision is without appeal. However, I would submit that before the presiding member exercises Section 133 there would have been the opportunity for an appeal of the ruling which precedes this action.

To illustrate; in the case of the flip flop fiasco, when the presiding member (Mayor McKay) asked the person to remove the flip flops, a member of council could have appealed the order if they felt the flip flops were of no consequence to the conduct of the meeting or city business. That appeal would then have been subject to a vote of council and if found in the affirmative the offending flip flops could have remained.

However, if the presiding member asks someone to remove the flip flops and by their silence has the support of council there is no obstacle to proceeding to the power contained within Section 133. To argue that 133 is without appeal is likely technically correct, but I would submit there would have been opportunity for appeal before the meeting progressed to that point.

To suggest that 133 stands alone and gives the presiding chair power to arbitrarily remove anyone they think is acting 'improperly' is absurd.

George Demeter commenting on the right of members to appeal a ruling from the Chair notes "it protects the assembly against the arbitrary control of the meeting by its presiding member"



  1. So the fundamental question involves the conditions under which "order" has been attacked and thus must be preserved. In these cases does the existence of signs which can only be seen by Council given the configuration of the room, or the presence of silent symbols constitute a breech of order? And if so, what other signs or symbols should be barred?

    1. I would say huffing, puffing and making faces constitutes a Point of Order and the culprit(s) should be banished to the corner with a ceremonial hat.



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