What to Expect

Welcome to the City of Moscow public meetings’ process. Public meetings within the State are controlled by Idaho Code and Moscow ’s City Code. In order to make your attendance at public meetings more meaningful, the City suggests the following as guidelines for participation.

The Agenda

The agenda outlines generally the order and the subject matter of business to take place at the meeting. The meeting Chair is in charge of the agenda and what occurs at the meeting. The following information is meant to help explain the type of activity associated with different types of activities considered at a meeting:

Legislative Matters

a.  What is it?  Legislative action occurs when a governing body (i.e., Council, Committee or Commission) guides or directs the public by enacting rules and/or regulations.  It anticipates lots of public input.  It is generally open-ended and broad in its scope and affects a broad class of individuals and a variety of situations.

b.  What rules apply?  Moscow City Code 4-10-6 controls conduct of legislative hearings. Public input can be obtained in a variety of ways, both before and during a public meeting as long as the final decision related to the legislative action occurs in a public meeting.

c.  Who can participate during the meeting?  Anyone recognized by the Chair.  You may wish to review the Public Meetings Handbook posted on this website for more detailed information about how the public meeting is conducted.

Quasi-Judicial Matters

a.  What is it?  Quasi-judicial activity occurs when the governing body acts like a judge or tribunal in determining how a general rule or regulation should apply to an individual, small group or interest. Actions related to land use (i.e., zoning, plats, the Comprehensive Plan, subdivisions, etc.) and licenses (daycare, solicitors, alcohol, etc.) are usually quasi-judicial in nature.

b.  What rules apply?  Quasi-judicial matters are more formal and restrictive than other matters. Generally, the public can participate only during the "public hearing" portion of the meeting.  This means that the public can not give input to governing board members prior to the meeting or after the public portion of the meeting has been closed.  The reason that public input is taken only during the public hearing is to ensure that the decision made is one based only upon evidence in the record and not based upon outside influences or information.  See the Public Meetings Handbook (page 4) for specific information about consideration of quasi-judicial items.  Moscow City Code 4-10-4 and 4-10-5 control public hearing procedures.

c.  Who can participate during the meeting?  The applicant, people in support or in opposition to the application, and those wishing to give general testimony may participate, as permitted by the Chair.

Other Matters

a.  What is it?  Matters other than Legislative and Quasi-Judicial may include reports, information presented to the governing body, approval of contracts, decisions on grant participation, proclamations, or general discussion.  These matters are generally related either to doing the everyday business of the governing body or receiving information which may lead to further action by the governing body.

b.  What rules apply?  Although there are no specific rules which apply to every one of these matters, the Chair will generally make the preferred process known within the meeting.

c.  Who can participate during the meeting?  Anyone permitted to participate by the Chair.

What Rules Apply

The City generally follows Robert's Rules of Order when making decisions.  See Public Meetings Handbook for more details.  All public comments in a meeting should be directed to or through the Chair so that (a) order can be maintained; (b) the record of the meeting (if any) is clear; and (c) a member of City staff can intercede to avoid a procedural problem or to give advice.

You may wish to know that it is part of the City Staff’s job to make sure that the procedures established by the City Council and State Code are followed.  Please forgive any inconvenience or temporary embarrassment which this may cause you.

If you have questions about the City public process or what is allowed during a public meeting, please contact the City’s Legal, Community Development or Administrative Department or review the following on line documents:  Public Meetings Handbook, Public Service Handbook, Government Manual.

Frequently Asked Questions

a.  Why can I talk privately to a decision maker on a legislative matter but not on a quasi-judicial matter?  Legislation generally concerns governance of a large number of people and/or general categories of property or people or activities.  When general legislation is applied to specific people or property, the matter becomes quasi-judicial because it is similar to how a court applies the general law to a given situation.  A quasi-judicial matter generally concerns specific people, entities or properties and, therefore, needs to be handled with care so that it can be clear to everyone that any decision is based upon public discussion and public information and the record of the proceedings can be preserved.

Because there is some distrust regarding decisions made by Boards, Commissions and/or Councils regarding quasi-judicial matters, the Idaho Legislature has determined that the public has the right to comment on the proposal and to observe the discussion regarding the proposal where a quasi-judicial matter is being considered.  This is meant to prevent concerns that a decision is made because of undue influence, bribery, kick-backs, and/or personal feelings or obligations regarding various parties or issues. In order to insure fairness, more structure is given to quasi-judicial matters than to legislative matters.

b.  Why can’t I talk to a decision maker about an upcoming quasi-judicial matter?  You can – but you must comment either in writing to the decision making board (not the individual member) or during the comment period within the public hearing.  The Open Meetings Law of the State of Idaho prohibits ex parte contacts with decision makers.  The law is meant to prevent undue influence being applied to decision makers.  The public hearing process is meant to insure that everyone who reviews the public hearing can determine the basis of the decision because all comments made during that process become part of the record.  In fact, if a decision maker is basing any part of his or her decision on something not “in the record”, the decision may be overturned.  If the decision maker believes that he or she cannot make an unbiased decision, the individual decision maker must withdraw from the decision making process on that matter. See the Public Service Handbook for more on conflicts of interest (page 4.)

c.  Why does the applicant get more time than others?  The amount of time given to participants at a public hearing is determined by the Chair of the meeting.  Because the applicant has the burden of coming forward to the decision making body to request action, the applicant is generally given sufficient time to make the presentation showing entitlement to the action the City Code allows.  It is up to the Chair of the hearing to make sure that all of the relevant issues in the public hearing are discussed and that each idea or assertion is given a fair chance to be considered.  Priority should be given to over-all fairness rather than strictly to the amount of time given to particular individuals.  As part of that decision, the Chair has the discretion to limit testimony where it is redundant or not directed at the issue(s) being considered.

d.  Why do staff members sometimes interrupt the process?  The staff is there to insure, to the greatest extent possible, that the established process set out in the State Code and in the Moscow City Code is followed and that all appropriate information is considered.  Many times, decisions which are otherwise appropriate have to be reconsidered because the process was not followed.  The laws related to process are meant to make sure that any decision is fair, based upon public evidence and discussion, and consistent and predictable.  Occasionally a City staff member such as the Community Development Director or City Attorney will interrupt the proceedings in order to “keep it on track” or to explain the law or process.  Please forgive any temporary inconvenience or embarrassment this may cause.

e.  When is it possible to talk to a City Councilmember or member of a Board or Commission regarding something I feel strongly about?  Generally speaking you should be able to speak to a member of the decision making board at any time regarding a legislative matter or a matter of general concern.  If there is a quasi-judicial matter scheduled or pending before the Board, Commission or Council, the decision maker should inform you of that fact and ask you to bring your comments for the public hearing.  If there is no quasi-judicial matter scheduled or pending before the decision making Board, you should feel free to discuss with that member anything you wish.  If a decision maker learns something from you that later becomes part of the decision on a related matter, that member will include that fact in the public hearing.  One thing to keep in mind is that the normal consequence of inappropriately contacting a decision making Board member is the inability of that Board member to participate in a pending matter, so please be patient and respectful if the decision maker does not talk to you directly until the appropriate time.  You may wish to contact City staff for direction on when you may speak to the decision makers on a particular topic.

f.  How do I find out about an upcoming meeting or issue?  Agendas for public hearings are published in the newspaper, posted on the first floor of City Hall, posted on this web site, and are available at the office of the City Clerk on the 3rd floor of City Hall.  They may be requested by contacting the City Clerk at (208) 883-7000.

g.  What if I have a suggestion to make to the City that is not scheduled to be discussed at a meeting?  You may always contact the Mayor, any Councilmember, the City Supervisor or members of the City Staff if you have questions or concerns.  In addition, each month on the first scheduled City Council meeting, there is a period of time which is specifically set aside for citizens to address the Council on any unscheduled issue of importance.

h.  If I have a question about process, who can I talk to?  The City Supervisor’s office can be contacted regarding your questions.  The Community Development Director answers inquiries regarding community development issues.  The City Attorney can answer legal or procedural questions related to the City.

i.  Does the City follow Robert’s Rules of Order?  The City generally uses the structure of Robert ’s Rules of Order but has not formally adopted them.  Because the City is of a rather small and familiar size and because Robert ’s Rules of Order sometimes have the unintended consequence of over-formalizing meetings, the City has not chosen to adopt the Robert ’s Rules of Order formally.  Additionally, where city governments have adopted Robert ’s Rules of Order, courts occasionally have focused more on the formal and technical aspects of the rules rather than on the idea of basic fairness in the procedure.  You may wish to review the Public Meetings Handbook which explains, generally, how the City decision making Boards and Commissions use the Robert's Rules of Order.

j.  If I think that the State law or the City Code is being violated, who can I talk to?  You may contact the City Attorney if you have a concern regarding potential conflicts of interest, failure to honor the procedures, and/or failure to follow the City Code.  The City Attorney’s office will discuss the matters with you because it is part of the City Attorney’s job to insure that the Code is followed.  If the City Attorney cannot answer your question because of a conflict or an ethical concern, you will be advised of that and directed to another person who can help you.  If you believe a crime has been or is being committed, you may also contact the Moscow Police Department, the Latah County Prosecutor at (208) 883-2246, or the Idaho Attorney General at (208) 334-2400.

k.  How do I get something on the agenda?  Please contact the City Administration Department for information.  The Mayor directs the City Supervisor regarding what agenda items appear for consideration.  The City Supervisor also works closely with the City Council members and City Boards, Commissions and Committees regarding important issues.

l.  How do I know if a subject, project or agenda item is legislative v. quasi-judicial?  There is no specific formula to help you to determine this; however, there are some “rules of thumb” which, in general, apply specifically to each matter.

LEGISLATIVE

 

QUASI-JUDICIAL

Applies to broad categories of people or issues

 

Applies general rules or laws to a particular person, place or entity

Establishes general rules or practices

 

Requires a public notice in the newspaper and on the subject property

Based upon broad principles or policies

 

Requires specific “findings” (called a Reasoned Statement of Relevant Criteria)

Meant to advise how to act

 

The action is the result of a request by an applicant for action by the government

The public notice specifically refers to amendment of the Comprehensive Plan or the Subdivision Code but not in conjunction with a particular property

 

Required specifically by the City Code to be subject of a Type 2 Quasi-Judicial hearing

On any specific matter you may always call the Community Development Director or the City Attorney​ for an opinion on whether the matter is legislative or quasi-judicial.