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Monday, May 11, 2015

What is a Censure?

Recently, a city council member was censured for a shoplifting incident from about a year and a half ago.  The city council voted on a resolution at a council meeting that publicly "censured" her for her past conduct.  So, what is a censure and what does it mean to the censured?

The authority of a municipality to censure one of its own members is not set out in the Illinois Municipal Code or elsewhere in state statute.  Nor is it usually established by local ordinance, although it could incorporated into a government body's rules of procedure or code of conduct. 

Robert's Rules of Order includes a few references to motions to censure members - for example, a motion to censure is deemed a "main motion" that is subject to debate.  However, Robert's Rules does not contain any details about the type of conduct or activity that justifies its use or the process for employing this procedural motion. 

A censure is defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary as follows:

1.  a judgment involving condemnation
2.  archaic: opinion, judgment
3.  the act of blaming or condemning sternly
4.  an official reprimand

Since it is not authorized by state statute, and there is little reference in Robert's Rules of Order, what does the act of censure mean?  The act of censuring a member is an expression of the government body's displeasure in one of its members.  A censure does not, however, have any legal effect on the member's ability to continue to serve on a particular government body. It does not recall, remove, or impeach a member from office.  It does not involve the imposition of any monetary or other penalties on the censured member.  It is simply a public reprimand by the government body against one of its members.  In short, while it can certainly have political overtones, it has very little, if any, legal impact at least not in the State of Illinois.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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