Only fifteen minutes on any topic, said Chairman Bill Slaughter, even though 8 people wanted to speak about trash at last night’s Lowndes County Commission Regular Session. But there is no such rule in the county’s relevant ordinance.
2. A maximum of 10 persons shall be allowed to speak at any meeting.
3. A maximum of three persons shall be allowed to speak on any one subject
But it does not have any overall time limit for a topic. Where did he get that rule? Did he just make it up on the spot? Where is the record of a Commission vote on it?
This goes beyond former Chairman Ashley Paulk’s demonstration at the very first meeting when they were adopted that the Chairman can set aside any or all of the rules in that ordinance. Chairman Slaughter said a ninth speaker couldn’t speak because he had turned in his form after the meeting started, even though Chairman Slaughter has himself waived that rule in the past. But this time Chairman Slaughter didn’t just enforce that rule and waive others, he made up a new rule that is not in the ordinance!
Is this the “freedom” about which Commissioner Page prayed? Is it even the “order” he mentioned, when the Chairman can make up rules on the spot as to how many and how long citizens can speak?
The relevant ordinance is no longer linked into the Commission’s front page, nor in the list of (a very few) ordinances, nor in the County Clerk’s page. But I found them under Public Notice. Here’s the signed version and here is a usable PDF version of the ordinance:
Lowndes County Board of Commissioners
Policies and Procedures for Citizens Wishing to be Heard
- Persons wishing to speak at “Citizens Wishing to be Heard” shall sign in with the Clerk of the Board of Commissioners. The Clerk shall be available for this purpose at least 10 minutes be fore the scheduled time at which the meeting will begin. Each person signing in shall provide his or her name, his or her mailing address, his or her daytime telephone number, whether he or she is a resident of the County, wh ether he or she is a taxpayer of the County, the subject on which he or she wishes to speak, and the action requested of the Board of Commissioners, if any. The Clerk shall prepare and have available a form for the pur pose of persons signing in to speak.
- A maximum of 10 persons shall be allowed to speak at any meeting.
- A maximum of three persons shall be allowed to speak on any one subject.
- Persons shall be allowed to speak on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Persons desiring to speak shall not speak until recognized by the presiding member of the Board of Commissioners.
- Each speaker’s time to speak shall be limited to five minutes.
- Commissioners may in their discretion respond to a speaker at the conclusion of the speaker’s presentation.
- The Board of Commissioners shall not vote on matters presented during “Citizens Wishing to be Heard.”
- When a speaker makes a request for specific action, the presiding member of the Board of Commissioners may refer the subject to the County Manager.
- To speak to the Board of Commissioners during “Citizens Wishing to be Heard”, a person must be a resident or property taxpayer of Lowndes County.
- Speakers shall direct their speech to the Board of Commissioners as a whole. Speakers shall not direct their speech to individual members of the Board of Commissioners or to individual employees of the Board of Commissioners or county officials. Speakers shall not solicit comments or responses from the Board of Commissioners or individual members of the Board of Commissioners.
- Persons speaking shall not make impertinent, derogatory, personal, offensive, or slanderous remarks.
- Subjects on which speakers may speak shall be limited to subjects concerning the business of the Board of Commissioners.
- The Board of Commissioners may limit speech on subjects that the Board of Commissioners believes to be closed.
- If a resident or taxpayer of the County desires to speak on a subject concerning the business of the Board of Commissioners that the Board of Commissioners does not believe to be closed and otherwise complies with these Policies and Procedures, the Board of Commissioners shall not limit the speaker’s speech based on the view point of the speaker.
- The presiding member of the Boar d of Commissioners shall ensure compliance with these Policies and Procedures.
- Any failure to comply with these Policies and Procedures may be ruled out of order by the presiding member of the Board of Commissioners.
- If any person attending a meeting of the Board of Commissioners fails to comply with any of these Policies and Procedures, the presiding member of the Board of Commissioners may take action to remove the person from the meeting.
Adopted January 25, 2011
Here’s the video:
A few Citizens to be heard for a few minutes only
Regular Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE), Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 11 June 2013.