Public comments will be allowed during each monthly meeting of the Warren County Commission, but restrictions have been put in place.
The measure to amend the docket of the monthly meetings to include time for public comment passed unanimously Monday night, 23-0. Absent was Commissioner Ron Lee.
While the resolution presented by Commissioner Michael Shane Wilcher called for the county to allow public comments during the meeting and had no provisions for limitations on how many individuals speak, or for how long, an amendment was made to include both of those.
Commissioner Terry Bell made a motion to amend the measure to include the following: Public comment will be given 10 minutes total time, two minutes per individual, and individuals must contact County Executive Herschel Wells and provide him with what they will be speaking about so they can be placed on the agenda. Bell’s motion came with a request from Commissioner Tommy Savage that Wells not allow personal attacks.
The change passed 22-1 with Wilcher voting against the change to his measure.
Prior to that amendment passing, Commissioner Carlene Brown failed in an effort to allow individuals to speak for up to five minutes as long as they give their name and address.
Said Brown, “For 25 years I worked as a department head for the city of McMinnville and in all 25 years on our agenda was a time for visitors. The five minutes was absolutely sufficient. We never had any problems that were not handled by the mayor of the city of McMinnville. In five minutes, you can give a lot of information.”
Savage objected because commissioners are only given two minutes to speak, “At the first meeting of the year, the ground rules were laid out that commissioners would only have two minutes to speak.”
Bell asked Brown about putting a limit on the number of people allowed to address the commission.
“What I’m concerned about, and I have a question for you, are you not going to put a limit on how many people speak? If we have 100 show up, do they all get five minutes?”
Brown offered to change her amendment to include a restriction of 30 minutes for public comment.
Wells said, “30 minutes is a long time. That’s too long.”
Brown’s motion to amend failed 17-6. Commissioners Bell, Morris Bond, Carl D. Bouldin, Carl E. Bouldin, Teddy Boyd, Randy England, Linda Jones, Gary Martin, Ken Martin, Michael Martin, Charles Morgan, Gary Prater, David Rhea, Scott Rubley, Tommy Savage, Diane Starkey, and Melissa Yancy voted against Brown’s motion that would have allowed individuals up to five minutes each to speak.
Commissioners Brown, Wayne Copeland, Carolyn Miller, Kenny Roberts, Blaine Wilcher, and Michael Shane Wilcher voted in favor of it.
Bell’s passing motion was made immediately following Brown’s.
“I would like to offer an amendment to try to solve both of these issues,” said Bell. “I’m not against anybody talking but we have to have some rules and procedures. That’s the reason we have a committee system for it to go through our committee system and allow us time to study it and give it consideration. The amendment I would like to offer would be for us to allow two minutes per person and 10 minutes total time but those individuals need to report to our county executive’s office and put their name on the docket and the topic that they will be discussing so everyone in the public and everyone on this county court knows what they are going to be talking about when they come here.”
The resolution proposed by Wilcher, with the amendment by Bell, passed unanimously.
Wells said the county’s agenda goes out 10 days prior to the meeting, with meetings held on the third Monday of each month. Individual wanting to address the commission must call the county executive’s office at least 13 days or more before the meeting night to get on the agenda.
Public comment during full County Commission meetings will begin in April.