County scrutinizes public-input rules for meetings

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 14, 2003

Freeborn County Commissioners reviewed their procedural rules in response to the recent ban on resident Roger Bok speaking during meetings.

The rule gives the board chairman the authority to remove a speaker if they are deemed to be making personal attacks or otherwise getting out of line. The sanction lasts until the board retracts it with a majority vote.

&uot;I just don’t think anybody should be banned from all the future meetings,&uot; Commissioner Dan Belshan said during a workshop meeting Wednesday.

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Belshan pointed out the ban should be effective only for the meeting of the offense. He also questioned a rule that prevents an individual from bringing the same subject repeatedly to the board, an amendment added in 1999.

&uot;The question is how do you represent the public as elected officials,&uot; Belshan said. &uot;The rule should be set for the public, not based on that individual (Bok).&uot;

&uot;I think it’s fair as it’s written,&uot; Chairman Mark Behrends said. He cited the procedural rule of the Albert Lea City Council and clarified that the county’s rule is far from restrictive.

Commissioner Dave Mullenbach supported the idea of imposing certain rules on public input. &uot;A lot of people don’t do their homework before they come to the board meeting,&uot; he said. &uot;And, sometimes people come back until they get the answer they want.&uot;

Behrends proposed that he would tentatively change the format of the agenda, inserting time for the public to speak before each agenda item instead of only at the start of the meeting.