Sunday, October 11, 2015

Equal City Hall Decorum Rules to Be Discussed -- Rules Would Require "Congeniality" by Commissioners Toward One Another and Residents


"Is this meeting over?  Is this meeting over?  Do I have three votes to move forward?  Three votes to move forward?  Three votes to move forward?"
Decorum and congeniality rules first draft is agenda item 11A for October 12, 2015 City meeting.
First Amendment case law has not yet been dealt with -- no legal memo.
Void-for-vagueness and definitional questions are unanswered.
The rules under discussion apply to citizens and Commissioners, but oddly not to rude staff members.
Some of my suggestions have been followed, others have not (including excellent de minimis suggestion by Stephen Cottrell's Record column).
The proposal is half-baked and may stimulate thoughtful discussion or angry pouting.
Yes, it will be fun to watch.
Watch how the "Gang of Four" respond to the portions on "Member Congeniality," some of which would prohibit continuation of rude behavior brandished by several Commissioners toward reform Mayor Nancy E. Shaver  since December 1, 2014.
In particular, what will be the response of Commissioners TODD NEVILLE, NANCY SIKES-KLINE and LEANNA FREEMAN, a/k/a "MISS CONGENIALITY?"
A.  Pointedly does not look citizens she disagrees with in the eye, turning her body to face the southeast corner of the room, acting like a spoiled brat;
B.  Often plays with her cellular telephone (as does Commissioner TODD NEVILLE), acting like  spoiled brats;
C.  Often leaves the meeting while it is in progress (as do other Commissioners), instead of asking for a recess if they need to do something privately;
D.  Left the September 28, 2015 meeting without asking permission in the middle of Mayor Shaver's Commissioner's comments, returning when they were nearly done; and
E.  Joined with her three barking "Gang of Four" colleagues in interrupting and abruptly attacking Mayor E. Shaver March 9, 2015 for wanting a compliance audit of 450th contracts ("Is this meeting over?  Is this meeting over? Do I have three votes to move forward? Do I have three votes to move forward"), acting like carping harpies opposed to learning the truth about possible waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance andn nonfeasance on no-bid contracts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here's the City Attorney's draft:

WHEREAS, the City Commission wishes to provide uniform rules of decorum for the orderly operations of public meetings and public hearings scheduled before the City
Commission and its appointed boards and committees; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 286.0114, Florida Statutes, members of the
public are given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a proposition before a board or commission; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 286.0114, Florida Statutes, the City Commission is empowered to provide rules, policies and procedures for public meetings consistent with Florida law; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 286.0114, Florida Statutes, emergency meetings, ministerial and ceremonial acts, litigation meetings and quasi-judicial hearings are exempt; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 286.0114, Florida Statutes, boards and commissions may maintain orderly conduct and proper decorum in a public meeting; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 871.01, Florida Statutes, and consistent with Weidner v. State, 380 So.2d 1286 (Fla. 1980), whoever willfully interrupts or disturbs a lawful assembly of people commits a misdemeanor of the second degree; and

Section 1. Public Meetings. Unless otherwise required by law, only one public comment period will be provided during the decision making process for all agenda items that are informational or require administrative, executive or legislative action. Speaker cards may be provided, and should be completed and returned to the City Clerk prior to commencement of the meeting. Each speaker is limited to a three (3) minute speaking period. Time may not be reserved nor maya public speaker yield their time to another speaker. The chairperson may grant additional time to a speaker or add additional public comment periods for individual agenda items, at the chairperson's discretion. The chairperson may also provide for representatives of groups or factions to address the commission, board or committee rather than all members of a group.
Section 2. Public Hearings. Items identified as requiring a public hearing will each have a public comment period. Speakers may be asked to state their name and address for the record in order to establish legal standing in some proceedings. Speakers may be asked to be sworn in prior to providing testimony at a quasi-judicial hearing. Each speaker is limited to a three (3) minute speaking period. Time may not be reserved nor maya public speaker yield their time to another speaker. As a courtesy, the chairperson may grant a brief period of additional time to a speaker in order to allow the speaker to conclude his or her comment.
Section 3. Notice: Disruptive Behavior. Any person violating the rules of decorum as described in this section or otherwise displaying disruptive behavior, such as, shouting, noisemaking, issuing threats, harassing or intimidating members of
the public, interfering with the duties of elected or appointed officials and City staff during a public meeting, or otherwise interrupting or disrupting the proceedings may be removed from the public assembly pursuant to law. Each speaker must comply with the following rules of decorum when addressing the commission, board or committee:
(a) The speaker may not address the commission, board or committee from the audience.
(b) The speaker may only approach the podium to speak when recognized by the chairperson.

(c) The speaker may not approach the dais without the chairperson's permission.
(d) The speaker must direct questions and comments at the commission, board or committee, through the chairperson.

(e) The speaker at a public meeting or a public hearing must observe the time limits set for public comment.
(f) The speaker at a public hearing must limit his or her comments to the subject of the hearing.

(g) The speaker may present their viewpoint in this limited public forum without using terminology or gestures that cause a disruptive environment for public officials in the discharge of their duties or cause a disruptive environment hostile to the participation of other members of the public.
A speaker willfully violating these rules of decorum may be gaveled out of order and removed for disrupting a public assembly pursuant to Chapter 871.01, Florida Statutes.
Section 4. Member Congeniality. Members of the commission, boards and committees should conduct themselves with decorum and civility towards each other and the public. In order to promote efficiency and order at public meetings, the following member rules shall be followed:
(a) While at the dais, the use of personal electronic devices shall be limited to viewing the agenda and supporting documents, reviewing and disclosing the substance of an ex parte communication, or such other use as is reasonably necessary to conduct City business.
(b) If a member wishes to leave the dais prior to adjournment or recess of the meeting, the member shall request permission to leave the dais through the chair.
(c) Prior to speaking, a member must first be recognized by the chairperson. When two or more members wish to be recognized, the chairperson shall determine the speaker order.

(d) No member shall interrupt another member who has the floor without their consent other than to raise a question of order.
(e) Comments should be confined to the issue, question or matter before the public body.

(f) Members should refrain from commenting on the personality or character of other members, former members, other officials, staff or the public. Members should focus on what is best for the City and visibly demonstrate respect for, and fairly represent, each other. Members should refrain from using words or gestures that are unbecoming of an
elected or appointed official, demonstrating in their words and deeds that it is fine to disagree but not to be disagreeable.
(g) Whenever reasonably possible, members should avoid spontaneously adding unplanned action items to a meeting, in order to allow staff and fellow members a fair opportunity to prepare for, and address, the issues.

PASSED IN REGULAR SESSION of the City Commission of the City of
St. Augustine, Florida, this _ _ day of

Nancy E. Shaver
Darlene Galambos, City Clerk (SEAL) 

1 comment:

tom reynolds said...

I agree with all of the above and much more. As I, a leader in the County of St Johns when it comes to Civility and Decorum, I always lead by perfect example of politeness. I think you, Mr Slavin, are a perfect example of a Citizen who always goes out of your way to be extra polite. It just might be the place where the meetings are held or the Funeral type feeling in the room. The before meeting should be liven up with some upbeat music. Then after the Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, we could all sing the song " We are Family" I got all my City and Me ! Then all shake hands or maybe even some hugs. I am only hugging Ladies Ed, no offense Good Friend. You, Todd, Regan, and Michael Gold could do some kind of HUG FEST ! Another idea I have is maybe the Wine companies in town could set up a table outside for some free samples. At least until the High Test Medical Marijuana is approved. Well anyway Good Buddie Ed, I am here if you folks need me. After all, your City is my Second Favorite. Plus I dig the Ladies on the Commission, I would be glad to bring UP the mood, it might even last more than FOUR HOURS !