During the debate on the ACS parking deal, Democrat Brian Mahern called out Council President, Republican Ryan Vaughn, the Council's presiding officer, for continually taking part in debate while still chairing the meeting instead of handing off the gavel to Vice President, Republican Marilyn Pfisterer.
After some research on my own as well as a few comments left on the blog, I have come to the conclusion that Mahern seems to be right with the spirit of Robert's Rules of Order and that Vaughn apparently doesn't understand the rules (leaving some to think something more sinister).
RulesOnline.com states the following:
The chairman sometimes calls a member to the chair and takes part in the debate. This should rarely be done, and nothing can justify it in a case where much feeling is shown and there is a liability to difficulty in preserving order. If the chairman has even the appearance of being a partisan, he loses much of his ability to control those who are on the opposite side of the question. There is nothing to justify the unfortunate habit some chairmen have of constantly speaking on questions before the assembly, even interrupting the member who has the floor. One who expects to take an active part in debate should never accept the chair, or at least should not resume the chair, after having made his speech, until after the pending question is disposed of. The presiding officer of a large assembly should never be chosen for any reason except his ability to preside.
Rules Online backs itself up in the footnotes:
"Though the Speaker (Chairman) may of right speak to matters of order and be first heard, he is restrained from speaking on any other subject except where the House have occasion for facts within his knowledge; then he may, with their leave, state the matter of fact." [Jefferson's Manual, sec. XVII.]
"It is a general rule in all deliberative assemblies, that the presiding officer shall not participate in the debate or other proceedings, in any other capacity than as such officer. He is only allowed, therefore, to state matters of fact within his knowledge; to inform the assembly on points of order or the course of proceeding when called upon for that purpose, or when he finds it necessary to do so; and, on appeals from his decision on questions of order, to address the assembly in debate. [Cushing's Manual, §202.]
So, Councillor Mahern appears to be correct. Given President Vaughn's admission of "an appearance" of a conflict of interest, some tidbit like this would only seem to fuel the fire, don't you think?
President Vaughn, I invite you to respond to this blog post if I am in error.