August 14, 2009
On rare occasions, a hostile group may approach the board to comment on a decision that the board is considering or has just made. The chair should explain the board’s procedure for handling public comment and that there is limited time on the agenda during which the public may address the board. The chair may ask if there is a spokesperson who can summarize the group’s input.
Alternatively, depending on the situation, the board chair might ask the board to vote to suspend the rules and allow extra time for public comment. Be prepared for a long meeting, if this method of dealing with a hostile group is chosen. With serious issues, it might be wise to schedule a public hearing at a later time to allow everyone a chance to speak.
Under no condition should the board engage in dialogue or debate with the public. The board’s role is to listen to the comments it is allowing.
While the law does not allow you to register members of the public before they attend a meeting, it can be helpful to have a speakers’ list. It is best to announce a couple of names from the list, thus giving the first speaker notice that his or her time to speak is finite and giving the next speaker notice that he or she will be speaking soon.