Committee again tables citizen forum rules

While publicly admitting that many of the proposed rule changes related to public speakers during citizen forum sections of various committee or town council meetings were directed at one speaker, Tom Letts, the Personnel and Ordinance Committee tabled the matter for a second month.

In an unusual move, all nine council members attended the early Tuesday morning meeting.

â??We are doing all of this because of one person,â? said Councilman Pranas Rimeikis. â??I donâ??t think it matters what we write in here.â?

Council member Meaghan Taylor said the current rules had worked fine until recently when events complicated the process that governs the public forum part of meetings when citizens address elected officials on town-related matters.

Rimeikis reminded the committee that while there is a constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, there is no guaranteed right under Roberts Rules of Order â?? the accepted parliamentary procedure used to guide bodies conducting meetings and making group decisions â?? that council must set aside time for citizens to address the elected officials.

However, governing bodies must allow public comment during advertised public hearings, said Rimeikis.

Committee Chairman David Lochridge cited the First Amendment noting there are exceptions.

Rimeikis argued that town council now offers an opportunity for the public to speak but not go on personal vendettas, pursue agendas or â??call out employees by name.â?

Councilman Jon Russell thought some language in the proposed changes were too subjective and open to wide interpretation.

Councilman Keith Price thought there was too much verbiage.

â??I think we can cut this down about half,â? said Price.

Lochridge conceded that common courtesy may be passé.

â??I am not sure that in the world we live in anymore,â? said Lochridge, who would like to see more specific language in the proposed rules changes.

Price would like things spelled out completely so everyone knows the ground rules.

The committee will tackle the rules changes for a third time next month.