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Guest Carl Davis

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Can a Board Member ask a question of an individual speaker during public comments ?

There is no fixed answer.

"Public comments" are a part of the meeting where there is no parliamentary rule applicable, that is, The Book fails to list what is permissible and what is not permissible during such a segment of a meeting.

All The Book says is "... may [this] ..." and "... may [that] ...".

So, The Book acknowledges that such a segment of a meeting as "public session" (or your "public comments") may exist, but that all the rules are "under control of the presiding officer," subject to rules of the organization and appeals arising from the body which is meeting.

So, if you are asking, "Under Robert's Rules, can I ask a question of an individual speaker during public comments?", then The Book's answer is, "No, not by any rule in Robert's Rules of Order," since whether it is possible or not isn't up to Robert's Rules of Order, but up to the rules "under control of the presiding officer" as subject to the rules, and appeals, of the body which is meeting.

See page 93-94.


This type of meeting is the opposite of an executive session. Many public and semi-public bodies are governed by sunshine laws--that is, they must be open to the public. Normally, such laws have no application to private, non-governmental bodies.

In meetings of many public bodies, such as school boards, the public may attend. Similarly, in some private organizations such as church councils, parishioners may be permitted to attend. These attendees are not members of the meeting body and ordinarily have no right to participate. Some bodies, especially public ones, may invite non-members to express their views, but this is done under the control of the presiding officer subject to any relevant rules adopted by the body and subject to appeal by a member. Often, by rule or practice, time limits are placed on speakers and relevance is closely monitored.

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