Limited public comment favored

Published 10:58 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Supervisors in Charlotte County held a committee workgroup meeting Tuesday to discuss and draft a new public comment policy for its board meetings, agreeing to limit comment to those who pay taxes or live in the county.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 9.55.53 AMAccording to Board Chairman Gary Walker, the draft policy will be presented to the entire board during the next meeting.

Charlotte Court House resident Terry Ramsey presented the board with possible language for the policy, which was used as a guideline throughout the meeting.

The original draft stated the public comment period would be limited to speakers who pay taxes set by the board, maintain residence or work in the county.

“So, is that saying if they lived in Richmond but they worked in Charlotte County … they can speak? Personally, I don’t agree with that,” said Keysville Supervisor Butch Shook.

Shook said the public comment period should be limited to county residents and real estate owners.

County Administrator R.B. Clark said the problem with administering the proposed conditions was that no proof of residency or land ownership is required to sign up to speak during the public comment section.

“Under normal circumstances, there is nothing to check,” Shook said. “You assume when they signup they know what the rules are.”

Red House/Cullen Supervisor Dr. Nancy Carwile said she didn’t have a problem with someone who lived outside the county speaking if the information was relevant to the county.

“We need to leave some things to the discretion of the chair,” she said.

The committee agreed that a 15-minute time limit for the public comment period was not feasible. The committee also agreed each person who speaks will each receive three minutes. The new draft stated “no speaker may speak for more than three minutes or use another speaker’s time to speak longer.”

The final draft to be presented to supervisors outlines that the policy for public comment would include other rules, such as comments must focus on matters related to county business, speakers must sign up prior to the start of the meeting, speakers must be courteous in their language and presentation and each person is encouraged to provide the board a written summary of their comments.

Additionally, policy points indicated the board is not required to answer a speaker during the meeting. Speakers may, however, request a board member to respond. According to the policy, speakers are encouraged to state their support for earlier comments instead of repeating them.

“I hope we can vote on this document when we present and not have to table it for another month,” Walker said.