The Greensboro City Council operates without written rules governing meetings.

City Attorney Chuck Watts said that the City Council does not use Robert’s Rules of Order to run meetings and that he is working on a set of rules, but there are no written rules governing how motions are made, seconded and passed, and all the other parliamentary procedures covered by Robert’s Rules of Order.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan agrees that the City Council does not use Robert’s Rules of Order.

The rulings on questions about how the meeting should proceed are made by Vaughan based on recommendations from Watts.

However, when a situation comes up as it did at the Tuesday, May 2 meeting, when the City Council has been discussing a motion that appeared to have been made by Councilmember Zack Matheny and seconded by Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann, and Vaughan – based on the recommendation of Watts – rules that motion out of order, it raises questions.

Matheny had made a motion that the city fund two of the three affordable housing projects before it, instead of only the one that was recommended by staff.  He spoke at some length about how it was better to build more affordable housing.  There was no immediate second and some other councilmember pointed out that his motion had no second.  Councilmember Sharon Hightower said, “It fails for lack of a second.”

However, Matheny continued speaking about the value of his motion.  Hoffmann then said, if you make it all three projects instead of two, I’ll second your motion.

Matheny agreed, Hoffmann said “OK,” and it appeared the motion, which was still being discussed, was seconded.

Vaughan, as the chair of the meeting, is the only one who can determine that a motion fails for the lack of a second and it appears from the video that she did not make that ruling.

Councilmember Tammi Thurm spoke in favor of Matheny’s motion.

When the question was raised about what motion was on the floor, Vaughan asked City Clerk Angie Lord for a review of how the motions had been made.

Lord said, “I know that Councilmember Matheny made a motion and the comment was made that it died for lack of a second and Councilmember Hightower moved the item that is on the agenda, Councilmember Abuzauiter seconded that and then Councilmember Hoffmann made a friendly amendment suggestion, which Councilmember Matheny accepted, and she said that if he would accept it she would second his motion, but I do believe that all took place following Councilmember Hightower’s and Councilmember Abuzuaiter moving the item that is on the agenda.”

Lord was correct, but the comment that Matheny’s motion died for lack of a second was made by Hightower – who is not the presiding officer at the meeting and has no authority to rule that a motion failed for lack of a second in order to make her own motion.

Watts was asked by Vaughan to straighten out the mess and Watts, relying on what Lord had reported, said that the motion by Matheny failed for lack of a second, but the motion did in fact have a second as reported by Lord.

Watts said in his opinion the motion before the council was a motion made by Hightower and Vaughan made that ruling

It is unclear from the video of the meeting when Hightower made this motion or if the motion was made at all.

However, Hightower’s motion to fund one affordable housing project passed on a 5-3 vote with Matheny, Thurm and Hoffmann voting no.