CAMDEN — After holding a special workshop meeting and discussions in two regular board meetings the Camden Select Board approved its own governing bylaws during the Oct. 18 meeting.

While many local organizations have their own bylaws, including town Select Boards, this is a historic event for Camden in that this is a new document. Town Manager Audra Caler said she proposed the idea about a year ago.

“Most select boards and city councils have bylaws or something similar that lays out expectations and practices for how they function as a group and responsibilities as individual members,” Caler said. “Some of the fundamentals are in the charter, such as the requirement for the group to elect its officers (chair and vice chair). But a lot of the rules around how they operate as a group aren’t in the charter, such as how they set agendas for their meetings.”

Chair Bob Falciani explained that the Select Board has always had a “Roles and Responsibilities” policy approved each year in addition to town attorney-led Select Board member orientation for new members. He said the new bylaws will help, especially for new board members, in understanding how this important government body functions.

The bylaws explain how Select Board meetings will function and some of the rules included seem aimed at keeping the meetings moving along. For example, the new bylaws limit presentations to the board to 15 minutes with questions and answers to take place after the presentations. During discussion of the bylaws, there were references to presentations in the past that have gone too long.

The bylaws note that Select Board members are to come prepared for the meetings having read their packets and are expected to act on proposed items “without delay.”

It includes loose rules for how many times Select Board members can comment or ask questions on items and dictates that meetings end at 9 p.m. unless a vote is taken to extend the meeting or a closed-door executive session is needed past that time.

The rules dictate that all persons attending Select Board meetings are to be treated with respect.

In the case of an adjudicatory proceeding, such as approving a liquor license or other license, board members are not to vote unless they were present for all of the hearings on that issue.

The bylaws stipulate that all board members shall vote on every matter unless excused by the Chair for good cause.

The document also points out that Select Board members cannot also be employees of the town or hold certain volunteer positions while serving on the board including election staff or school board roles.

Board members are not allowed to vote in cases of bias such as a matter involving a family member or where a municipal officer has a bias so strong that they cannot make an impartial decision.

The bylaws also clearly delineate the proper working relationships between Select Board members and town staff including the Town Manager. They are not as individuals to give direction to town staff members or the town manager.

The bylaws allow board members to respond individually to questions from the public, but if a question is directed to the whole board, communications are to go through the chair and the town manager. “However, this does not preclude members of the Select Board from responding individually if they determine it appropriate to do so,” the bylaws state.

The board discussed the bylaws at length before approving them in three meetings. The bylaws are intended to align with both state law and the Town Charter.

Falciani said this is a living document and it can be amended by the Select Board at any time.