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Can you Speak at a Pubic Meeting?

By Robert McConnell Productions

How To Run A Meeeting

If you would like to know more about how Parliamentarian Procedure from Little Ben, click here for my DVD called How To Run A Meeting.

 A newspaper article reported that a Bremerton councilwoman was observing the hearing for the confirmation of Senator Sessions. While one of the panel members was speaking kindly about Senator Sessions she let out the explicative "that is bull***." She was arrested by the Capitol Police for disrupting the meeting.

There are rules of behavior for anyone observing government bodies in deliberation, whether it is a local city council meeting, state legislative session or the federal government hearings. Those serving in public office are required to have open meetings so that we the citizens can be informed and oversee the actions of those who we have elected. It is about keeping government accountable. However, the citizen who is observing has no right to speak or make off the hand comments while these elected officials are engaged in their important deliberative work.

If you do attend public meetings, you must follow the governing body’s rules and respect the legislative process. Often at the local and state level, the governing body allows those observing to speak to an issue. Usually, you have to sign in and state that you want to speak pro or con against an issue. The time to speak is often limited to two minutes. Remember we have a representative form of government. These people represent us and make the decisions. However, they are held accountable to us through the election process which often takes place every two years or four years. They do want to hear their constituents’ viewpoints but it has to take place in the proper ways.

Causing disruption, yelling out expletives, or causing other problems during meetings opens the person to being removed from the premises and perhaps a visit to the court. This woman was released on bail. The penalty for this type of action is $500 and sentenced up to six months in jail. These laws were passed because some of the citizens of our country do not know how to behave during public meetings.

Little Ben says, “Always be courteous.  When speaking to an issue stick to the facts and never focus on personality. Then you have nothing to fear.”