County Commission Establishes Rules for Public Comments at Meetings

August 3, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

Public comments are permitted during a County Commission meeting but new rules have been established on when and for how long a citizen may speak.

During the regular monthly meeting last Monday night, the commission voted 9 to 5 to adopt Rule 16F regarding Public Comments along with separate provisions as part of its new policies and procedures manual. Basically the Rule allows for persons to speak for three minutes at the end of the meeting, whether it be at a Regular Monthly Meeting or a “Committee of the Whole” meeting.

Commissioners voting in favor were Janice Fish Stewart, Myron Rhody, Beth Pafford, Dennis Slager, Bobby Johnson, Jenny Trapp, Julie Young, Scott Little, and Bruce Malone. Those voting against were Commissioners Anita Puckett, Jeff Barnes, Sabrina Farler, Jerry Adcock, and Matt Adcock.

The county commission typically has two meetings each month including the regular monthly session on the 4th Monday night of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the courthouse and a “Committee of the Whole” workshop formerly referred to as an “All-Committees” meeting which takes place on the Thursday evening at 6 p.m. prior to the Monday night regular meeting in the courthouse or any other day agreed upon by a majority vote of the County Commission.

The initial proposal under Rule 16F would have permitted public comment at the “beginning” of each meeting of the “Committee of the Whole” but 1st District Commissioner Dennis Slager offered an amendment to put the public comment period at the “end” of the meeting and to allow citizens to make comments at either the “Committee of the Whole” or the “Regular Monthly” County Commission meeting.

“I have a hard time telling a taxpayer or citizen they don’t have a right to speak at a county commission meeting but I believe it should be orderly and they should abide by the rules we set. I also think they should speak at the end of the meeting because if somebody comes in with a concern we may address their issue during the meeting without them having to speak,” said Slager.

Sixth District Commissioner Matt Adcock disagreed saying “I think it is important to hear their opinions and what they have to say before we take action on issues”.

Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock said the public should have the right to speak before any agenda item is voted on by the commission during the meeting.

“They won’t have any reason to speak at the end of a meeting if we have already acted on everything and if they can only speak at the beginning they may not know what we have on our agenda when they walk in. They should be allowed to speak before each issue,” said Adcock.

Slager’s amendment was adopted by a 9 to 5 vote. Commissioners voting in favor were Janice Fish Stewart, Myron Rhody, Beth Pafford, Dennis Slager, Bobby Johnson, Jenny Trapp, Julie Young, Anita Puckett and Bruce Malone. Those voting against were Commissioners Scott Little, Jeff Barnes, Sabrina Farler, Jerry Adcock, and Matt Adcock.

Under Rule 16F, citizens of DeKalb County will be permitted to make public comments at the end of each regular monthly meeting of the “Committee of the Whole” or the “Regular Meeting” in accordance with the following:

*The person desiring to speak should rise, address the Chair, and when recognized, state their name and address.

*After providing the required information, the person shall be allowed to speak for a period of three (3) minutes on any matter of concern.

*All comments shall be directed to the Chair. The Chair may address questions to individual Commissioners, but in no event will the citizen be permitted to call names, question the integrity or motive of the individual Commissioners or the County Mayor or make personal or derogatory comments.

*The Committee of the Whole (County Commission) will not consider any item addressed during this time. Issues raised may be referred to appropriate persons for response at a later date or may be scheduled for discussion by the Committee at a later time.

*It is the responsibility of the Chair to maintain order at County Commission meetings.

*The Committee of the Whole (County Commission) may impose a more restrictive time limit if a large number of persons desire to speak. If a large number of speakers are present to address an issue, the Committee of the Whole may set a limit on the total time allowed for all speakers or ask that a Spokesman be named to speak on the issue.”