Auburn residents should be concerned with the City Council's penchant for suspending its meeting rules.
And they should be downright angry that important and controversial decisions could be made without public input.
The council has met 29 times this year and has voted 31 times to suspend its rules of procedure.
While Robert's Rules of Order are very detailed on when meeting rules can be suspended, the city's own rules are dangerously vague, basically allowing the council to suspend its rules for any purpose.
But rules exist for a reason — to bring order to meetings, to provide for logical consideration of matters and to make sure the public knows beforehand when important matters are on the council's agenda.
Most of the time, the council suspends its rules for fairly innocuous reasons, often to allow members of the public to speak at the beginning of meetings.
However, occasionally in a pique of anger or exasperation, some councilors have used the suspension-of-rules provision to introduce substantive issues.
For instance, Councilor Dan Herrick arrived at one meeting after receiving a complaint that the city's rules for starting a business were cumbersome.
Councilor Mike Farrell made a motion suspending the rules and Councilor Belinda Gerry seconded. Then, out of the blue, Farrell proposed dissolving the city's planning board.
Is that even possible? Had anyone researched what the Planning Board does? Whether the complaints were valid? Was public input sought?
No. The motion was just an arrogant and tyrannical "off-with-their-heads" gesture that never should have been introduced.
Neither the Planning Board nor its requirements for businesses were on the agenda.
Farrell, Herrick and Belinda Gerry voted to eliminate the Planning Board. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and four other councilors voted them down.
Two other important and controversial policy matters have reached the voting stage in the same manner, including a motion approved 4-3 to demolish the Great Falls Arts Center.
The agenda for the meeting merely called for a discussion of the future of the building, not its demolition.
Three councilors account for two-thirds of all the council's rule-suspension motions.
Farrell has launched 10 motions to suspend the rules in the past year. Gerry has done so five times and, Herrick, four.
The trio often votes as a block, seconds each other's motions and seems to come up with the most impulsive ideas.
Mayor Dick Gleason has expressed concern about the practice: "...When we do things like that, it doesn't appear that much thought has gone into them."
Councilor David Young agreed: "A lot of these motions floor me altogether. There's no input from anybody, other councilors or the public. And that seems like a strange way to do business..." he said.
Strange and dangerous.
Auburn's council should limit all future suspension-of-rule motions to procedural matters or true emergencies.
In the long run, the council's rules of procedure should be changed to limit the misuse of this provision.