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County commission adopts new public participation policy

A new policy regarding public participation at Grady County Commission meetings was adopted last week based on similar policies used by other counties represented by the Hall Booth Smith law firm.
Grady County attorney Jennifer Dorminey Herzog described the policy as a decorum policy or meeting management policy. Herzog said that many of the rules included in the policy are already in place within Robert’s Rules of Order, but that this policy outlines it in a basic, understandable form.
Under the new policy, members of the public are allotted three minutes in which to address the board or a maximum of 30 minutes for all speakers. It also stipulates that the speaker refrain from personal comments, political comments, and must avoid repetition and argument.
The policy prohibits vulgar language or disrespectful comments and prohibits disruptions or interference with procedures. It provides for questions to be asked by the board for clarification, but no person from the floor is permitted to enter into any discussion either directly or through a member of the board.
Once the board begins discussing agenda items, only those recognized by the chairman will be allowed to speak.
Commissioner LaFaye Copeland suggested a revision in the order of the policy bullet points in order to improve the flow, which Dorminey Herzog concurred with and agreed to rearrange.
Vice Chairman T.D. David pointed out to Chairman Ray Prince that the policy places additional responsibility on the chairman to allow only those who seek recognition by the chairman to be allowed to speak, including commissioners.
Commissioner June Knight suggested that copies be made available to the public when they attend commission meetings or be posted outside the meeting room.
The policy also prohibits the public from interrupting or heckling commissioners, staff or other citizens who are addressing the board. If a citizen disrupts the meeting, the chairman can recess the meeting or have a law enforcement officer remove the disruptive person to restore order. A person who knowingly commits any act that prevents or disrupts a lawful meeting may be found guilty of a misdemeanor, the new policy states.
Commissioners, earlier this year, barred former county commissioner Charles Renaud from commission meetings after he shouted out during a meeting last December. Renaud filed suit and the commission subsequently lifted its barring action at a special called meeting on Jan. 22. The suit is pending and has not been withdrawn.

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