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FEATURE: Not Just a Councilman, Stinnett is a Parliamentarian

Councilman Kevin Stinnett

By Brenna Angel


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Lexington Fayette Urban County Council has covered a lot of ground over the past several weeks as they helped develop a budget for the next fiscal year. Working through all of the agenda items during council meetings can be a hectic process, even for veteran council members.

"We are on page five, ready for item 21."

Urban County Council meetings can be long and tedious. The 15 people elected to serve on Lexington's legislative body really do have a lot of things to make decisions on, from the controversial topics to routine tasks.

Sometimes, the issue is not what council members are discussing but how they're discussing it. Take, for example, a recent meeting where the council heard presentations from the public safety department. One councilmember made a motion -- or a proposal -- that council further review the topic in committee. That's when Councilmember Chris Ford chimed in.

"It might best be, if I could offer a friendly suggestion, to address this under agenda items referred from council members. Willing to discuss it but I'm concerned whether this is the appropriate time or venue on the agenda."

"Mr. Parliamentarian?"

"You know I would agree that it's not the appropriate time."

The Parliamentarian that Vice Mayor Linda Gorton turned to for guidance is Councilmember Kevin Stinnett. He's been representing Lexington's 6th District since 2005.

"Well parliamentarian basically makes sure we are following our council rules and the rules set for in Robert's Rules of Order, which most organizations would appeal to, to make decisions of decorum, how we should vote, when something's in order, when it's not. Basically I make sure we follow the correct process and make sure it's fair for everyone."

Stinnett, who is also a small business owner, admits he didn't go to council meetings before taking office, but says he has become a student of government over the years. When he was Vice Mayor, Jim Gray appointed Stinnett as council parliamentarian and current Vice Mayor Linda Gorton renewed that appointment this year.

"You know quite often motions get made, and amendments get made, things get pulled off the docket, and things are proposed to have another look at them. So it can get kind of complicated," says Gorton.

Things can get especially touchy when Stinnett has to correct a fellow councilmember in public.

"But I try to be fair, try to handle it tactfully and move on. It's nothing personal, it's just keeping with our process because we all want efficient meetings. We don't want to sit through unnecessary dialogue and allow one person dominate our meetings."

Stinnett serves on other boards that use Robert's Rules of Order, but for his role as council parliamentarian, he goes straight to the source.

"You know it's kind of like the Bible or other books out there; there are different versions of it. So you try to read most of them to get what the consistencies are and the philosophies. But yes I read the book of Roberts Rules, I still carry it in my briefcase, and I have a cheat sheet if I ever need it."

At one recent meeting, Stinnett reminded council members that all motions had to be made in the affirmative. So if there's an unpopular item on the agenda, someone has to make a motion to approve it, but then everyone can cast a "no" vote. It's a technicality, but one that Stinnett is proud to abide by out of respect for the process.