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City weighs decorum ordinance

Speaking (politely) for the people



Recent Charleston City Council meetings have been lacking the theatrics of, say, former Councilman Wendell Gilliard's baggy pants mannequin. But they can apparently still bring out fierce emotions.

After City Councilman Tim Mallard's latest argument with city staff, fellow Councilman Aubry Alexander introduced a bill that would establish rules of decorum for the council. The city has established rules for the audience when speaking during public comment periods, but has no guidelines for how the council treats each other or the staff.

"Why aren't we holding ourselves to the same standard?" Alexander asks.

The proposal introduced to council last week would require council members to speak respectfully, limit private conversations during meetings, and avoid walking around or causing a disturbance while the council is voting on a matter. An offending council member would receive a warning and then be removed from the chambers if they did not comply. The ordinance would also make any violation a misdemeanor.

Alexander says the proposal was meant as "a hammer" to prompt discussion, but he's dedicated to getting some sort of rules passed.

Mallard says that he has apologized to the clerk for the recent outburst that prompted the proposed rules, but he won't apologize for trying to get a fair accounting of the city's business.

"I ask a lot of tough questions," he says. "If they don't want to answer your question, they say you're rude."

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