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Public Comment Period


Public_Commenter

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Our town adopted and claims to follow Robert's Rules for all meetings.

 

To state up front, we average citizens are not experts on Robert's Rules and all laws governing the town but we are working to learn all we can. We have begun to call our tightly controlled town, government by loophole. They pull out loopholes to stop all debates, discussions, proceed with private meetings to prevent quorums, secret voting and more. We are learning and constantly try different methods to keep the administration on an open track.

 

Recently a member of our group was put in jail in retribution for our questioning the administration's processes.

 

Our mayor is a non voting manager / moderator of our City Council meetings. Near the beginning of the city council meetings a public comment period has been set aside. During this public input period citizens speak on any topic not on the regular agenda.

 

Our mayor has arranged to limit these public comments to 5 minutes. We citizens are not happy with this but have learned to adjust our comments to fit the imposed limitations used. This applies to the public comment sections of regular agenda items.

 

Our mayor has now decided if a public attendee speaks once, this citizen is not allowed to speak again on any new point brought up by another public speaker.

 

The basic questions for this group:

1. Is the public allowed to approach the podium more than once if another attendee speaker raises a point needing clarification?

2. We citizens realize the public comment times are not to be debating periods but if our points are being distorted by other commenters what are our alternatives?

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As far as RONR is concerned only City Council members have any rights at the Council meetings (nonmembers don't even have a right to attend the meetings let alone speak at them).  You will need to look to any Governing Documents and applicable laws (applicable to the City Council) to see what rights (and their particulars) they bestow on members of the public.

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Each state has Sunshine Laws which regulate public participation (if any) in meetings of public bodies, as well as how meetings can be held, what public notice is required, what topics may or may not be discussed or acted upon in private meetings, and related topics.

 

None of this is in RONR, but RONR does say that rules of order prescribed by state law overrule RONR anyway, so your research should probably concentrate on your state's sunshine law.  There may be tools that citizens can use to enforce compliance, up to and including the First Amendment.  And you may need a lawyer.  

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