Rules of Procedure and Conflict of Interest Policy
The Planning Commission of the Town of Brandon, Vermont, hereby adopts the following rules of procedure (hereinafter referred to as these Rules) in accordance with 24 V.S.A. § 4461(a) and 1 V.S.A. §§ 312(e), (f), and (h).
These Rules are adopted to ensure consistent and fair treatment of applicants and interested persons, and participants, orderly and efficient public proceedings, and compliance with state and federal law. These Rules shall also ensure that no board member will gain a personal or financial advantage from his or her work for the board, and so that the public trust in municipal government will be preserved.
1. “Board” means the Brandon Planning Commission.
2. “Board member” means a regular or alternate member of the Brandon Planning Commission.
3. “Conflict of interest” means any one of the following:
a. A direct or indirect personal interest of a board member, his or her spouse, household member, child, stepchild, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt or uncle, brother or sister in law, business associate, employer or employee, in the outcome of a cause, proceeding, application or any other matter pending before the Brandon Planning Commission.
b. A direct or indirect financial interest of a board member, his or her spouse, household member, child, stepchild, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt or uncle, brother or sister in law, business associate, employer or employee, in the outcome of a cause, proceeding, application or any other matter pending before the Brandon Planning Commission.
c. A situation where a board member has publicly displayed a prejudgment of the merits of a particular proceeding before the board. This shall not apply to a member’s particular political views or general opinion on a given issue.
d. A situation where a board member has not disclosed ex parte communications with a party in a proceeding before the board, pursuant to Section XII of these Rules.
4. “Deliberative session” means a private session of the board to weigh, examine, and discuss the reasons for and against an act or decision, from which the public is excluded. There shall be no taking of evidence or submission of testimony, nor need a deliberative session be publicly noticed. By motion and majority vote, the board may enter deliberative session during a hearing to consider a matter before it.
5. “Executive session” means a session of a public body from which the public is excluded, pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 313. Such private session may only be held for one of the reasons permitted by the statute, and no binding action may be taken in executive session.
6. “Official act or action” means any legislative, administrative or quasi-judicial act performed by any board member.
7. “Public deliberations” means the weighing, examining, and discussing, in a public proceeding, the reasons for and against an act or decision, but expressly excludes the taking of evidence and the arguments of parties.
8. “Recuse” means to remove oneself from a particular board proceeding because of a real or perceived conflict of interest.
D. Regular Officers
At the first meeting in every calendar year, or at other times throughout the year as needed, the Brandon Planning Commission shall hold an organizational meeting and elect by majority vote, a Chair, Vice Chair and Clerk.
1. The Chair shall preside at all meetings, hearings, and deliberations, decide all points of order or procedure, and appoint members to any committee of the board. The Chair may administer oaths and may request the attendance of witnesses and the production of material germane to any issue under consideration.
2. The Vice Chair shall assume the duties of the Chair whenever the Chair is absent, or at the Chair’s request. The Clerk shall assume such duties whenever the Chair and the Vice Chair are absent, or at their request.
3. It shall be the duty of all members to review the minutes and other official records of Brandon Planning Commission meetings and actions, and correct and ratify these when appropriate and necessary.
4. The Clerk shall insure that minutes are taken of all meetings.
E. Alternate Members
The Selectboard may annually, or as needed, appoint up to two alternates who may temporarily serve as Brandon Planning Commission members in the event of a recusal or absence or one or more members.
1. An alphabetical roster of all alternate members shall be kept by the Brandon Planning Commission. The assignment of alternates for active duty will begin with the first alternate in alphabetical order and rotate through the list until all alternates have served and rotation will be repeated.
2. Whenever a regular member has a conflict of interest or is expected to be on extended absence from the Brandon Planning Commission, the chairperson of the Brandon Planning Commission, or his or her designee, shall appoint an alternate to serve as an active member of the Brandon Planning Commission by selecting an individual from the roster as provided in Section E (1) above.
3. If the chairperson of the Brandon Planning Commission does not appoint an alternate as required under Section E (2) above, a majority of the members of the Brandon Planning Commission present and voting may appoint an alternate to serve in accordance with Section E (2).
An alternate member who is called upon to serve shall be required to be a part of the Brandon Planning Commission until a final decision is made on any application heard by the Brandon Planning Commission while serving as an active member. Participation includes attending deliberative sessions and any continuance of a public hearing if the application has been tabled or adjourned to another date.
F. Regular and Special Meetings
Regular meetings to conduct business of the Brandon Planning Commission shall be held on the third Monday of each month at the Brandon Senior Citizen Center, or as warranted. The Chair may cancel meetings at any time.
1. Special meetings may be called by the Chair, provided at least 24 hours notice is given to each member and the time and place of each special meeting is publicly announced at least 24 hours before the meeting.
2. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the entire board.
3. Members may participate by telephone as long as the absent member can hear everything that is occurring at the meeting and everyone present at the meeting can hear the board member.
4. All meetings shall be open to the public unless the board, by majority vote, has entered a deliberative or executive session. The board may only hold an executive session pursuant to the reasons permitted by 1 V.S.A. § 313, and only after a 4/5 vote to so enter executive session.
5. There shall be an agenda for each meeting, with time allotted for each item or group of items to be considered. Those who wish to be added to the agenda shall contact the Brandon Planning Commission Chair to arrange for a convenient time. The Chair shall determine the content of the agenda.
6. All business shall be conducted in the same order as it appears on the agenda, except that by majority consent, the Chair may alter the order of items to be considered and/or the time allotted.
7. The Chair shall rule on all questions of order or procedure and shall enforce these rules pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 312(h).
8. At each meeting, there shall be a ten-minute period of time reserved for public comment near the beginning of the meeting. The Chair may extend or reduce this period of time as necessary. Speakers may participate at other times throughout the meeting but only when recognized by the Chair. Such comment shall be limited to three minutes per speaker, unless by majority consent the board sets a different time limit. The board shall apply consistent time limits to all recognized to speak.
9. Notice for hearings on the adoption, amendment, or repeal of the bylaw and other regulatory tools shall be pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 4444, as amended.
All public hearings that are legislative in nature shall be conducted according to Roberts’ Rules of Order. Quasi-judicial hearings, as defined in 1 VSA 310(5)(B) shall be conducted according the requirements of 24 VSA Chapter 36.
H. Conflicts of Interest
Participation, disclosure of conflicts, and recusal shall be governed by the following procedures:
1. Participation. A board member shall not participate in any official action where he or she has a conflict of interest in the matter under consideration. A board member shall not, personally or through any member of his or her household, business associate, employer or employee, represent, appear for, or negotiate in a private capacity on behalf of any person or organization in any proceeding pending before the Brandon Planning Commission.
2. Disclosure. At all meetings where official action is being considered, the Chair shall request that board members disclose all potential conflicts of interest. When recognized by the Chair, any person may request disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.
Nonetheless, after disclosing a conflict or perceived conflict, a member who believes that he or she is able to act fairly, objectively, and in the public interest, shall disclose the nature of the potential conflict of interest, and the reason(s) why he or she is able to act in the matter fairly, objectively, and in the public interest. This shall be noted in the minutes of the proceeding.
3. Recusal. A board member shall recuse him or herself from any matter in which he or she has a conflict of interest, pursuant to the following:
a. The applicant or any person may request that a member recuse him or herself due to a conflict of interest. Such request shall not constitute a requirement that the member recuse him or herself.
b. A board member who has recused him or herself from a proceeding shall not sit with the board, deliberate with the board, or participate in that proceeding as a board member in any capacity.
c. If a previously unknown conflict is discovered, the board may take evidence pertaining to the conflict, and if appropriate, adjourn to a short deliberative session to address the conflict.
d. The board may adjourn the proceedings to a time certain if, after a recusal, it may not be possible to take action through the concurrence of a majority of the board. The board may then resume the proceeding with sufficient members present.
I. Ex Parte Communications
A board member shall not communicate, directly or indirectly, with any party, party’s representative, party’s counsel or any person interested in the outcome of a proceeding on any proceeding before the board.
1. Disclosure. At each hearing, the Chair shall request that members disclose any ex parte communications. Board members who have received written ex parte communications shall place in the record copies of all written communications received as well as all written responses to those communications. Members shall prepare a memorandum stating the substance of all oral communications received, all responses made and the identity of each person making the ex parte communication, which shall become a part of the record of the proceedings.
Upon majority vote, the board may request that the legislative body remove the accused board member from the Brandon Planning Commission. Board members may be removed for cause by the legislative body upon written charges and after public hearing. 24 V.S.A. § 4460(c). Planning commissioners may be removed at any time by unanimous vote of the legislative body. 24 V.S.A. § 4323(a).
These rules may be amended at any regular or special meeting by a majority vote, provided that each Brandon Planning Commission member has been presented a written copy of the proposed amendment at least 24 hours before the meeting at which the vote is taken.
Adopted by the Brandon Planning Commission May 3, 2005