Editor’s note: The following is the full text of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners’ revised draft public participation policy.
Notice is hereby given that the board of commissioners recognizes the value to county governance of the general public’s need for comment and inquiry on county matters and the importance of involving members of the public in commissioners’ meetings. The commissioners also recognize their responsibility to implement a recognized structure for conducting county-related business and the necessity to conduct same in an orderly, efficient and transparent manner.
With this recognition, the commissioners shall, through the adoption of the accompanying resolution, establish clearly articulated guidelines for genuine public participation at both the commissioners’ work sessions as well as the commissioners’ regular (or business) meetings, the latter at which all manner of essential county business is both transacted and recorded.
To that end, and in order to establish a fair and orderly expression of public comment, the commissioners shall provide a clearly defined opportunity for residents, business interests, taxpayers (at large) to comment on all matters of concern relative to any official action(s) or deliberations before the commissioners prior to final action by the board of commissioners at a commissioners’ regular (or business) meeting.
With the above as a guiding principal, and in order to facilitate this important exchange of expressions from the public, the following will be in evidence from this date forward, and as per the attached resolution. Specifically:
Work sessions: In its transaction of business, the county commissioners host a work session every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in the commissioners meeting room. At these work sessions, any and all matters of potential business are presented and outlined by department heads — or in some cases, affiliate agency heads, not-for-profits, economic development groups, state agencies and the like. At times, these are in the form of updates, with no official action pending. In any event, it is at these work sessions that potential business is disseminated and discussed with the board of commissioners. These sessions provide the public with the requisite background and opportunity to both be informed and, in some cases, ask questions or offer comments or concerns and generally interface with the process of county government.
Regular (or business) meetings: It is at these formal, recorded meetings that the actual business of the county is transacted with action by the board of commissioners. These meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of a given month at 9:30 a.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room. It is the goal of the county to conduct its business in a framework that both addresses a given issue with enough background presented to offer the public an understanding of what is being presented and transacted while moving this business in an efficient, orderly and transparent fashion. At both the work sessions and the regular (or business) meetings, it is the goal of the board of commissioners to offer the public a genuine, reasonable and recognizable process for both interfacing with the process as well as an opportunity to offer comments on the business at hand. It is in that spirit that the following is offered.
Work session (every Tuesday — unless otherwise noted):
1. The commissioners shall require that any and all public comments be made at/near the conclusion of each work session. These can be informal in nature and address any range of comment or concern with an item of business on the official agenda, or an item of general comment as this may relate to county business, policy, practices or the like.
2. While it is not necessary to give formal notification for public comment at a work session, it is requested that comments, questions or concerns relative to potential or pending county business be made at that time. Other matters of general public interest may be presented at that time. In every instance, the board of commissioners request that comments be made with a recognition of time constraints on county staff as well as a gesture of courtesy to those in attendance that may desire to offer comment as well. The chairman of the board of commissioners will allocate sufficient time for (any) public comment at a given work session and reserves the right to limit any comment that either exceeds a reasonable time frame, or otherwise determines that the comment is not germane to either the business at hand or is of a venue that cannot reasonably be accommodated through a work session. In the latter, the member of the public will be offered a venue that best suits his/her comments in the spirit of both accommodating the public while offering a suitable course of action that is outside of the framework of general county governance.
3. If, due to extenuating circumstances, the commissioners determine there is not sufficient time at a given work session for public comments, the comment period will be deferred to the next work session, or, if scheduled, a special meeting prior to the next regularly scheduled regular (or business) meeting.
4. The chairman of the board of commissioners shall be charged with following and/or enforcing the commissioners’ policy for the public interface element at work sessions.
5. Whenever an issue or issues as identified by a member of the public is subject to remediation under the policies and procedures of the commissioners, they shall be referred to the administrative agent or department head and dealt with in accordance with those policies and procedures and within the organizational structure of the county — and if such a referral and/or remedy is in evidence.
6. The commissioners require that public participants be either: residents or taxpayers of Crawford County; anyone representing a recognized group in the broader community; any representative of a firm eligible to bid on material or services solicited by the commissioners; any state agency or municipal representative; any department head or county employee with business or potential business before the board of commissioners. This may be amended on a case-by-case basis or as otherwise dictated by the group or individual before the board of commissioners.
Regular (or business) meeting (every first and third Thursday unless otherwise noted):
1. Any person representing a recognized group in the broader community as well as any individual with business before the board of commissioners shall contact the chief clerk in advance of the regular meeting in order to be on the regular meeting agenda. Prior to speaking, all participants shall be recognized by the chairman of the board of commissioners (or in his absence, the vice-chairman) and must preface their comments by providing his/her name, address, group affiliation (if appropriate) and topic to be discussed.
2. No non-resident will be allowed to speak at the regular meeting unless granted prior approval by the board of commissioners. Multiple requests by different persons representing the same group will not be honored. Accordingly, any group desiring to address the commissioners should select a spokesperson who can best express the views of the collective body.
3. At no point during a regular meeting will department heads — or any duly recognized Individual making a presentation on a matter of county business be “cross-examined” or otherwise questioned by a member of the public. If there are questions, these shall be directed to the chairman of the board of commissioners at/near the conclusion of the regular meeting as a possible topic of discussion at a subsequent work session. Any such questions shall be at the discretion of the chairman of the board of commissioners in terms of follow-up measures.
4. At the beginning of a regular meeting, any person representing a recognized group in the broader community as well as any individual shall be granted up to three minutes to address an item on the published agenda for that particular regular meeting. At/near the conclusion of the regular meeting, each presentation made by a member of the general public on an item of general interest and shall be limited to a 10-minutes duration. The chairman of the board of commissioners reserves the right to waive this time limit requirement on a case-by-case basis and with regard to the interest of the general public. In any event, the portion of the meeting allotted to “general public comment” at/near the conclusion of the regular meeting during which the public is invited to speak shall be limited to 30 minutes total.
The commissioners retain the right to refuse permission to any individual to speak at a regular meeting to address the same subject matter discussed at a previous meeting.
6. No participant may speak during the meeting more than once on the same topic.
7. All comments and statements shall be directed to the chairman of the board of commissioners and no participant may address or question commissioners individually.
8. Electronic recording devices and cameras, in addition to those used as official recording devices, shall be permitted at regular meetings.
9. Under no circumstances will political placards, advertisements or other recognized political propaganda be permitted within the commissioners’ meeting room during a regular meeting as part of any presentation.
10. Under no circumstances will political placards, advertisements or other recognized political propaganda be permitted within the commissioners’ meeting room during a regular meeting as part of any presentation.
11. With the foregoing 10 points as a basis for public participation, the chairman of the board of commissioners may, at his discretion:
a. Interrupt or terminate a participant’s statement when the statement is too lengthy, personally directed, abusive, threatening, derogatory, obscene or irrelevant.
b. Request any individual to leave a meeting when that person does not observe reasonable public decorum.
c. Request the assistance of the sheriff deputies to remove a disorderly person when his/her conduct interferes with the orderly progress of a meeting.
d. Call a recess or adjourn to another time when the lack of public decorum interferes with the orderly conduct of a meeting.
e. Waive these rules with the approval of the noard of commissioners.