Council to consider revised citizen’s time policy

Published 11:43 am Friday, May 20, 2016

At its last meeting, Franklin City Council sought legal advice from city attorney Taylor Williams in closed session regarding the citizen’s time policy. Council will now consider a revision to that position at the next meeting.

In April, the Attorney General ruled that the policy regarding citizen’s time at Franklin City School Board meetings is in violation of a person’s first amendment right, freedom of speech. Council’s policy regarding citizen’s time is very similar to the school board.

The policy states that speakers are not to discuss specific personnel during citizen’s time, which is held during public session; they are, however, invited to do so during closed session.

The citizen’s time that takes place in council and school board meetings is classified as a “limited public forum.” The restriction in this type of setting must be reasonable and viewpoint neutral, according to the Attorney General. They also must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and leave open channels of communication.

“It is my opinion that the blanket prohibitions in the rules against speech on specific personnel …employees may not constitutionally be applied so as to bar speakers from discussing … employees or officials during open meetings, and the prohibition against all ‘personal attacks’ is not constitutionally permissible,” the official opinion stated.

The new proposed policy regarding citizen’s time goes into detail of what citizen’s time is, as well as the rules and procedures.

“Persons can address Council about matters involving the business of the City, concerns regarding the healthy, safety or welfare of Citizens in the City, any matters regarding the delivery of the many services provided by the city through its various departments, speak to the performance of any city personnel, and any other matters that might involve the City business,” the new citizen’s time rules state. “A speaker should not use profanity or vulgar language, make gestures to offend or insult any other person(s), make political speeches, make remarks tending to promote private business ventures, make remarks from the audience or use any signs or placards in support of or in opposition to an issue or person.

“Any person’s speech that is an insult directed at a person and not speech directed at substantive ideas or procedures or issues at hand, reasonably perceived by the presiding officer to be irrelevant to City business, or may result in the potential disruption of the orderly conduct of the meeting by its very tone and manner, will be declared out of oder by the presiding officer and the speaker will be directed to yield the floor and take a seat,” the proposed rules go on to say. “If the speaker does not comply and causes a disruption in the orderly conduct of the business on the agenda, he may be removed by a police officer at the request of the presiding officer.”

Council will have the opportunity to vote on the revised policy and rules regarding citizen’s time at their meeting on Monday, May 23. During that meeting they will also hear a Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Budget presentation from City Manager Randy Martin.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in Council Chamber, 207 W. Second Ave.