Palatine Township wants expert to referee board meetings

Palatine Township plans to hire a referee of sorts in an effort to prevent friction between board members and have meetings run smoothly.

The five-member township board wants a parliamentarian to oversee its meetings. Parliamentarians are experts on meeting rules and enforce decorum, such as having only one speaker at a time and keeping personal confrontations at bay.

Board members deferred voting on the parliamentarian at a meeting Monday night due to incomplete documents related to the proposal. The board agreed to start seeking someone for the post - at a cost not to exceed $50 for each regular and nonvoting committee meeting - before formal consideration next month.

Palatine Township Trustee Susan Kern said she expects the parliamentarian will prevent what she considers to be personal attacks that have occurred at some board meetings this year. Minutes from an Oct. 23 meeting show Supervisor Sharon Langlotz-Johnson stated she apologized in a telephone call to Trustee Andy-John Kalkounos for remarks she made to him at a September session.

"I am hopeful - I think we are all hopeful - this will solve the problem," Kern said.

Langlotz-Johnson said the outside assistance should provide more structure for meetings and improve how they function.

"We have in the past been in a more casual, friendly atmosphere," Langlotz-Johnson said after Monday's session. "We needed to be more organized ... to be sure people weren't talking over each other, weren't bringing up other subjects. We wanted to stick to the agenda."

While uncommon at suburban governments, parliamentarians are common in larger legislative bodies, such as the U.S. House of Representatives, and are known to help smaller boards, too, said Cyndy Launchbaugh, executive director of the National Association of Parliamentarians.

She said the assistance of a parliamentarian often leads to faster meetings, and the position is used by boards for local governments, churches and nonprofit agencies.

"It's real easy for a meeting to get out of hand," Launchbaugh said Tuesday. "What does that mean? Maybe it's one person who dominates or there is no order, where people are talking over each other."

Palatine Township's proposed resolution says someone should be hired "with the requisite expertise and experience to serve as parliamentarian." Launchbaugh said her organization trains and certifies parliamentarians.

In addition to being masters of the commonly used Robert's Rules of Order and other methods to ensure well-run meetings, a parliamentarian is expected to make sure board members keep their comments on a current issue and prevent crosstalk.

Palatine Township Trustee Bill Pohlman said he'll welcome the outside help.

"The problem is, we really weren't following Robert's Rules, because we've had a very casual atmosphere," he said.

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