At the first session of the 2014 Wayland Annual Town Meeting (Thu Apr 3), School Committee member Donna Bouchard, acting on her own behalf and not that of the Committee, introduced what she called an amendment to the Omnibus Budget article. As can be heard beginning at the 2h 9m 55s mark of the WayCAM video of that evening's meeting, she began as follows.

Quote Originally Posted by Donna Bouchard
I would like to offer an amendment that adds a resolution to the main motion.
After being recognized by Moderator Dennis Berry, she continued.

Quote Originally Posted by Donna Bouchard
Be it resolved that the Town Meeting supports the establishment of a School Budget Advisory Committee ...
The remainder of her motion spelled out details of the SBAC, most notably that it would be composed of 5 or more members appointed by the School Committee, and that it would meet at least twice a month beginning with its appointment no later than the end of May, 2014, and ending with the delivery of its report by the middle of October, 2015.

My aim here is not to address the merits of forming such an advisory committee. As at least one Town Meeting member who opposed Ms. Bouchard's amendment said, if the School Committee were in favor of the amendment, he might be too. Nor do I intend to discuss here the process that Ms. Bouchard employed to propose the SBAC. Elsewhere, I address that process by which she blindsided her fellow School Committee members.

Instead, I'd like to focus on the Moderator's actions. In my opinion, the Moderator erred in two ways, one relatively minor but the other quite major.

The minor error
Section IV of the Moderator's Rules and Regulations Governing Wayland's Town Meetings addresses the meeting itself. Sub-section C concerns debate within the meeting. Sub-section C.7 focuses on subsidiary motions to the main motion, and Sub-section C.7.a touches on amendments. The relevant language reads as follows.

Quote Originally Posted by Moderator's Rules and Regulations
IV.C.7.a: You may amend a motion by moving to add and/or delete words to and/or from the main motion or by substituting a new motion therefor;
While Ms. Bouchard's amendment did propose to add words (in the form of what she called a resolution that was non-binding), it did not propose where to add those words within the Omnibus Budget motion.

It may be worth a brief digression to point out the difference between an article and a motion. Basically, the article is the "holding place" in the Town Meeting Warrant that describes the motion that will be read on Town Meeting floor. Sometimes, motions and articles are identical or nearly so. Other times, they differ markedly.

For instance, here's the Omnibus Budget article from the 2013 Annual Town Meeting Warrant.

Quote Originally Posted by 2014 Annual Town Meeting Warrant
To determine what sum of money the Town will appropriate for the operation and expenses of the Town, including capital expenditures for equipment, improvements, or other purposes, and determine whether such appropriation shall be provided by taxation, by transfer from unappropriated funds, by transfer of funds already appropriated for another purpose, by borrowing, or otherwise.
The Warrant doesn't contain the motion. One place to see the language of a motion is in a town annual report. Here's last year's quite different Omnibus Budget motion (operating budget, which is the motion that's relevant here) from the 2012-2013 Annual Report.

Quote Originally Posted by 2012-2013 Annual Report
That the report of the Finance Committee respecting the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget be accepted; and that each and every numbered item set forth in the Finance Committee’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 be voted, granted and appropriated as an expenditure for the several purposes and uses set forth in said budget establishing a total budget of $72,354,918, which sum shall be expended only for the purposes shown under the respective boards, committees and offices of the Town; and, of the total sum so appropriated, $63,014,622 shall be raised by taxation, $360,000 shall be provided by transfer from Ambulance receipt s, $111,000 shall be provided by transfer from Premium on Bonds Account, $1,247,111 shall be provided by transfer from other funds, $845,000 shall be provided by transfer from Overlay Surplus, $2,500,000 shall be provided by transfer from Unreserved Fund Balance, $3,556,100 shall be provided from Water revenue, $33,205 shall be provided from Septage Retained Earnings, and $687,880 shall be provided from Wastewater revenues.
In my lay opinion, for Ms. Bouchard's amendment to have been proper, it should have been of a form along the following lines.


Mr. Moderator, I move you sir to amend the main motion by inserting the following resolution after the words "Wastewater revenues. Be it resolved that ..."


As it was, it's not clear where Ms. Bouchard's amendment should be placed. Without such placement, it isn't really possible to know what eventual main motion one would be voting on.

The major error
The Moderator's Rules and Regulations are surprisingly vague with respect to article scope. As frequently highlighted by the prior Moderator, the idea behind scope is as follows: a resident reading an article in the Warrant should have a reasonable idea of what will be voted on at Town Meeting. For instance, if an article proposes to change a zoning by-law with respect to commercial business signage, the motion introduced under that article could not propose to change minimum residential lot sizes because such a change would be beyond the scope of the original article.

What do the Moderator's Rules and Regulations say about scope?

Quote Originally Posted by Moderator's Rules and Regulations
IV.C.4: If you have a question concerning the legality or propriety of the proceedings, you may approach the Procedural Microphone and address the Moderator without waiting to be recognized, saying: “Mr. Moderator, I rise to a point of order.” When you have been recognized, you must state the reason for your point, which may include that a motion is beyond the scope of the article under consideration, that the person who has the floor is not addressing the merits of the motion or that a quorum is not present. The Moderator will then rule on the point and his ruling is final.
Quote Originally Posted by Moderator's Rules and Regulations
IV.C.5: If you wish to offer a motion within the scope of the article under consideration, follow the procedure outlined under paragraph IV. B. and C., above.
Quote Originally Posted by Moderator's Rules and Regulations
IV.C.5.d: A motion that is not identical word-for-word with the substantive portion of the article printed in the warrant then under consideration will not be accepted, unless the Moderator shall determine that said motion is within the scope of the article; i.e., that it does not change the substantial character of the proposal described in that article or would not further restrict, if passed, the liberties of the residents of Wayland than the proposal set forth in the article.
That's it. For all of the importance of scope, the Moderator's Rules and Regulations only mention the word 3 times, and never define it. This is a deficiency in said Rules and Regulations that the Moderator should correct before the next Town Meeting.

Returning to the spirit of scope as described by the prior Moderator, in my opinion, the current Moderator was clearly in error in ruling Ms. Bouchard's amendment within scope. A resident reading the budget article in the Warrant could not have reasonably expected that the resulting motion might ask for the creation of a committee.

In sum, I don't think that Ms. Bouchard's amendment was properly made, and more importantly, I don't think that her amendment was within the scope of the article. The Moderator erred twice in allowing it to be discussed and voted on.