Board of Directors Regular Meeting Agenda
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Receive, consider and act upon a review of the Township Board's Public Comment Policy to include an analysis of the legal framework regarding what constitutes permissible time, place and manner restrictions and to consider modifications to the Board's Public Comment Policy (as requested by Director McMullan);
Following the November 18th Board meeting, Township Director McMullan requested a review by legal counsel regarding the Board’s Public Comment policy in regard to statutory provisions. Director McMullan requested that this review be presented at the Board of Directors meetings on December 10, 2015.
Township legal staff, after consultation with the Strong Firm and Mike Page, has completed the legal review. This legal review has been submitted to the Board earlier by the Township Attorney and is considered confidential as it is attorney / client privileged information. However, if there is a desire to discuss the legal briefing in open session, the Board can opt to waive the confidential / privilege status of the correspondence and discuss in open session.
Legal counsel found that there is no statutory provision that requires the Board to allow public comment as part of the Township Board meeting agenda. However, since the Board has established a policy that allows public comment at Board meetings, Director McMullan requested that legal counsel review whether this permissive action by the Board provides statutory rights to the speaker during public comment to speak on any subject and address the Board without being encumbered by the Board imposed rules. The review by legal counsel indicates that there are no additional statutory and limited constitutional rights provided as a result of the Board allowing public comment and that the Board has the right to define and enforce its rules for public comment.
As currently provided within the Board rules, a member of the public is provided the right to address the Board during the public comment segment of the Township Board meeting. The Board’s public comment rules state that all comments should be directed to The Township Board. The rules also state that “Speakers should present all comments in a brief, courteous and respectful manner”.
Most people who speak during public comment do address their concerns to the Township Board when making public comment. Since Town Hall is the place where the Board does the business of The Woodlands Township, I would suggest that all comments during public comment be directed to the Township Board as a whole and not to a specific director or specifically reference an individual director. We have had prior speakers who have singled out Directors for both positive and negative comments and I would suggest in the future that all comments be directed to the Board of Directors (not individuals).
Based on this review, staff is not recommending changes to Board rules regarding public comment. However, the December 10th agenda does allow for Board action, if so desired.
As determined by the Board of Directors
Board Guidelines for Public Comment
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