Home Calaware Community Forum General Discussion Public comments at City Council meetings

This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Joseph Teixeira 1 year, 10 months ago.

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  • #13513

    The Mayor of Inglewood, as Chairman of the Council, has recently stated that he is permanently decreasing the time for public comments on non-agenda items from 3 minutes to one minute, no matter how many people want to speak, one person or 25 people.
    His action, that went into affect without public comment, without comments from the Council and without a vote of the Council, comes after three years of his trying every other means to limit public criticism of himself. In November of last year, he was even found, by the Public Integrity Division of the DAs office, to have violated the Brown Act and the free speech rights of a speaker during two meetings last year.
    My question is, considering the fact that he has a history of bias when granting time to speaker and having been found to have violated the law to limit speech, can this decrease in time on a permanent basis, not due to a special event where there are many speakers, be done without a Council vote and no public input.

    #17474

    The council as a legislative body has the ultimate authority to adopt or amend rules addressing the amount of time afforded citizen speakers. If the council has not adopted any such rules, it can do so now; if it has adopted such rules, it can amend them now. It may be that the council is unaware of its authority in this regard, or aware but for some reason unwilling to exercise that authority.
    Here is what the Attorney General has said about time limits under the Brown Act.

    “What is a ‘reasonable’ period of time for public discussion will, in our view, necessarily vary with the facts and circumstances in each case. The time allocated for the meeting, the number of agenda items, the complexity of each item, and the number of persons wishing to address the legislative body on each item of general public interest would require consideration.
    “We conclude that (the Brown Act) vests the legislative body of a local public agency with wide discretion concerning the adoption of regulations limiting the time at its meetings for public testimony on each issue and for each speaker. A limitation of five minutes or less for each speaker would be valid, depending upon the particular circumstances. . .
    “In so concluding, we note that if the time limitation is formally adopted as a general rule of procedure, the limitation may be waived where necessary or appropriate pursuant to the usual rules governing deliberative bodies. (See Robert’s Rules of Order (Rev. 1970) § 61, subd. (c), p. 114; Mason, Manual of Legislative Procedure (1975) § 23, pp. 43-44.)”

    If the one-minute rule were challenged in court, I believe a judge would find it in violation of the Brown Act as not “reasonable”, prohibit its enforcement and order the city to pay the challenger’s court costs and attorney fees.

    #20984

    So how would I or others go about finding an attorney that might be willing to take on this matter for costs and attorney fees?

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