We hear from SILCs from time to time whose meetings are long, cumbersome and not as productive as they would like. Here are some of the areas of difficulty and suggestions for improving the meetings in those areas.
- SILCs sometimes become entangled in the ethical issue of conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is typically defined as having an interest in a decision that will personally benefit the individual or someone in their immediate household/family. Sometimes individuals ask if the Center director elected by the other directors to represent them, has a conflict. The answer is, not usually. Members to the SILC must be people “who are knowledgeable about centers for independent living and independent living services” and this knowledge is not in and of itself a conflict. The conflict would occur if there is a vote that affects a specific center to the exclusion of others, typically benefiting that center or more rarely, if there is a decision being made against a specific center and a member of the council has or has had a contentious relationship with that center. The conflict is bringing the personal interest or dissatisfaction into the discussion.
- Another area of some confusion is around the role of the ex officio members. An ex officio member is not elected, but is on the board by virtue of the position they hold, usually their job as in the case of the SILC member representing the DSE. SILCs must have an appointed representative of the Designated State Entity (DSE) and may have others from “State agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities”. In the case of the SILC, ex officio members are specifically non-voting. Some SILCs identify the state agencies in their bylaws; in other cases the governor’s appointment office takes on that role. A non-voting, ex officio member can certainly participate in the discussion unless your council chooses to adopt a policy that limits their discussion. They are at the table to provide information about services to people with disabilities in your state. You may want to specify in your policies whether or not they are allowed to make or second motions, but typically if you can’t vote you wouldn’t make motions, either. Their role is intended to be advisory, not to control the council’s business meeting.
- Members of the public typically give their comments during a public comment period, and are not at the table or engaged in the discussion as the meeting proceeds. I like to see public comment at the beginning of the meeting because the person may have comments on business to be conducted at that meeting, (since the agenda in most states must be published in advance and followed closely, based on the open meetings laws in the state) or could provide information on an item that will be considered at the next meeting.
- The key is that the chair (not SILC staff or DSE staff) controls the meeting through the agenda, knowledge of your policies and procedures or general policies regarding parliamentary procedures, and through deciding who is recognized. Only those recognized by the chair should speak to keep the meetings orderly and running smoothly.
Some of these areas will be covered at the SILC Congress, meeting in January. If you are part of a SILC you will want to participate in this national forum by and for SILCs.