03/18/12 — Commissioners to weigh new meeting, comment rules

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Commissioners to weigh new meeting, comment rules

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 18, 2012 1:50 AM

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning will hold workshops with an eye toward possibly changing two long-standing board policies -- their morning meeting time and limits on people speaking during the public comment portion of the board sessions.

Both issues were brought before the commission by its Republican members, who had sought action during the board's Feb. 21 session. However, the board decided to hold off on both until this week's meeting.

The work sessions will be held at the end of Tuesday's board meeting, which gets under way with an agenda briefing at 8 a.m. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex, 224 E. Walnut St.

The rules governing the public comment period were adopted by a unanimous vote on May 1, 2007.

Commissioner Steve Keen questioned two parts of those guidelines during the Feb. 21 meeting: limiting speakers to three minutes once a month and requiring a group of people speaking for or against the same topic to choose one person to speak for the group.

The sticking point for Keen, and the others who have addressed the policy, is not the three-minute limit, but rather limiting a person to speaking just once a month.

Keen's motion to eliminate those two provisions was amended to study the rules and review them at the board's March 20 session. It was approved 5-2, with Keen and fellow Republican Ray Mayo voting no.

Other provisions of the policy not questioned were:

* When the numbers of persons wishing to attend a meeting exceeds the capacity of the meeting facility, delegates from the group supporting or opposing the same positions shall be selected

* Maintenance of order and decorum and the conduct of the public comment period shall be observed

* The board of commissioners reserves the right to limit the time devoted to public comments at any particular meeting.

The issue of meeting times has surfaced several times over the past few months, mostly by speakers during the public comments section of the board meetings.

However, it was Mayo who made the motion on Feb. 21 to change the meeting times from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday effective in April.

County Manager Lee Smith pointed out that such a move would not be as simple as it might appear and would require shifting other schedules, some of which are outside the board's authority to change.

Commissioner Sandra McCullen offered an amendment to Mayo's motion that potential conflicts that would be caused by changing the meeting time be studied and to have a report ready for Tuesday morning's meeting.

The board approved the amended motion 7-0.