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Protest guidelines formalized at Board of Estimates

City Solicitor George A. Nilson (file photo)

City Solicitor George A. Nilson (file photo)

Loyal followers of the city’s Board of Estimates may have noticed something new at the top of the agenda the last two weeks. A resolution will go into effect at tomorrow’s meeting concerning “the regulation of Board of Estimates meetings and protests.”

Previously, when it came to protests, the Board of Estimates states on its website:

The Board may at its discretion hear a protest from the public, contractors or other interested persons. Generally, unless the matter that is the subject of the protest is on the current agenda of the Board of Estimates, the Board will not hear the protest. Protest(s) should be submitted in writing by noon on the Tuesday preceding the Board meeting.

The resolution, posted below, expands and elaborates on that paragraph. The written protest has to include who you represent, the issues and facts supporting your position and how you will be harmed by the board’s action.

The new rules also allow a protest of pending matters before the board as well by “an entity affected by the disposition of the matter in a way different than an average taxpayer or citizen.”

The president of the board, who is also president of City Council, has the right to limit all speakers “to items and issues on the board agenda.” Additionally, people who are disruptive to the hearing may be asked to leave “in the interest of promoting order and efficiency of hearings.”

City Solicitor George A. Nilson, who sits on the Board of Estimates and whose office signed off on the resolution, said the rules emerged over the last few months in response to “a number of situations and circumstances” during hearings. The rules are not targeted at anyone in particular, he said, and most of the resolution formalizes what is already practiced during meetings or what would help the board run more efficiently.

The requirement for elaborating on the reason for a protest will better help the board respond to a protest, Nilson said. A protest of, “This order violates the city charter” does not give the board much to work with, he said by way of example.

“You can’t really inform members of the board if you don’t know what the regulation is,” Nilson said.

One area of added emphasis is clamping down on unregistered lobbyists. A new rule says all procurement lobbyists must register with the city’s Board of Ethics. Board of Estimates members can report any lobbyist who does not register but appears before the spending panel.

What do you think of the resolution?