Winnebago Co. (ECWd) –
“For the reasons explained below, the Public Access Bureau concludes that the Pecatonica Township Board violated the requirements of the OMA in connection with its December 19, 2017, meeting by prohibiting a member of the public from addressing the Board during the public comment portion of the meeting pursuant to an unreasonable established and recorded rule.” Read the AG Opinion (here) or below.
During the Dec 19, 2019, meeting, Mr. Dunn tried to sign up to speak 11 minutes in advance of the meeting, and was prohibited from speaking because Board had established a rule mandating signing up at least 15 minutes in advance of a meeting.
The AG has determined in previous cases that a rule requiring advance signup which is enforced to prevent a member of the public from addressing the public body violated the OMA if it is not reasonably necessary to promote a significant governmental interest.
In this case, the AG determined that Pecatonica Township’s rule requiring a 15 minute advance signup unreasonably restricts public comment and violates the OMA.
The Board was requested to review and revise its ordinance regulating public comment accordingly.
The Board did “amend” its public comment policy, however, the 15 minute advance signup remains in place, and added a new restriction: a person must come in and sign up in person.
We suspect both of these rules will be changed in the near future, either voluntarily, or by Court order.