John E. Pennington
347 Railroad Avenue
Manchester, Kentucky 40962
Dear Mr. Pennington:
Your letter raises a question about parliamentary procedure at a city council meeting.
Bids were received by the city in connection with the purchase of a vehicle. A motion was
made by one of the councilpersons to accept the lowest bid. Another councilperson seconded that
motion. The mayor, as presiding officer, refused to permit the council to vote on the motion and
stated that the city should purchase the vehicle from some other car dealer.
Your question is whether the mayor may refuse a motion that has been properly made and
In Robert's "Rules of Order Revised," under the topic of seconding motions (§ 5, pp. 36-37), the author states that as a general rule every motion should be seconded. This prevents time
being consumed in considering a matter in which only one person is interested. A person need
not be recognized by the chairperson or presiding officer in order to second a motion.
In Robert's "Rules of Order Revised," under the topic of stating the question (§ 6, p. 38),
the following appears in part:
When a motion has been made and seconded, it is the duty of the
chair, unless he rules it out of order, immediately to state the
question -- that is, state the exact question that is before the
assembly for its consideration and action.
In Mason, "Manual of Legislative Procedure for Legislative and Other Governmental
Bodies," in § 156, the author states in part as follows:
It is the duty of the presiding officer to accept or to entertain any
proper motion whenever it is in order. A motion is in order when it
is presented at an appropriate time, violates no rule, and is not
The same source states in § 157 that motions no longer need to be seconded. While a
second to a motion is not out of order its only effect is to disclose that one or more other
members may favor the motion made. Unless the local rules require seconds they may be ignored
and the presiding officer may not refuse to put a question before the body because it has not been
Thus, under the limited factual situation you have presented, a motion properly made and
seconded must be accepted by the presiding officer and stated and presented to the legislative
body for its consideration and action.
Thomas R. Emerson
Assistant Attorney General