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johnprussell

being told to stop speaking by chair before recognized time is up

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The town I live in states that they adhere to Robert's rules. The city attorney told me to consult Robert's Rules of Order. The procedure for a citizen(me) to speak before the Mayor and council is to request to be on the agenda at least 72 hrs before any regular scheduled mayor/council meeting and give a 1 sentence description of the topic. My topic being that the local municipal judge appointed by the local mayor is being investigated by the State Attorney General's office as evidenced by a press release from the attorney general's website stating such. I gave such description , and was listed on the agenda. The Mayor in this instance is the Chair. It came my turn to speak and the Chair stated, "you have 3 minutes to speak on the topic that I listed." I spoke for about 10 seconds from a prepared statement quoting the State Attorney General and the Mayor/Chair said, " I have heard enough out of you. I am shutting you down right now." I stopped speaking for a second and then started speaking again. The Mayor shouted back," I am not going to listen to you talk about our municipal judge that way, you are done." I asked about my 3 minutes to speak and that every other citizen that spoke before me got their 3 minutes to speak. He stated that he could cut off anyone he wanted whenever he wanted.

I guess my question is this---based on the information before you, is this person "out of order"? Can he do exactly what he says he can do? and exactly as he did?

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According to the rules in RONR, non-members of the <body> have no rights to be heard at alll, except as the <body> may decide. So the RONR answer is that the <body> itself can decide--not the chair alone--but if no member raised an objection to the chairs actions, they would probably be deemed to have consented.

However, in your case this is not a private society but a public governing body, and there will be a variety of different rules set by state statute, federal law, state and federal constitutions, and case law, that supersede and extend well beyond the limits of RONR. We can't give you advice on those, but a lawyer could.

I know of at least one similar situation in NJ, where an action very much like yours at a school board resulted in a court judgment in favor of the person, and against the school superintendent, for violating the person's First Amendment rights. Since I'm not a lawyer, I can't begin to guess how or whether that might relate to your situation.

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