Earlier this month I wrote about my concerns related to Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez and her conduct of the public comments portion of the April 5th City Council meeitng. I pointed out that it appeared that Alvarez was playing a bit fast and loose with the Brown Act and the rights of the public to address the council. The Voice of Orange County posed my concern to their expert on these things, Terry Francke of Californian’s Aware.
Q: What are the Brown Act requirements regarding the public testimony period during open meetings? For example, does the act stipulate a set amount of time a person is allowed to comment? Can an official running a public meeting decide who can and who cannot comment? Can speakers be stopped from directing statements or questions to particular member of the body, or from mentioning their names in critical comments?
Here is a portion of Terry’s response:
As for forbidding speakers from addressing or even critically naming particular members of the body such restrictions amount to unconstitutional censorship. Apparently some local agency lawyers believe that unless the Brown Act expressly requires certain speech to be accommodated, it can be prohibited.
In short, when the government has expressly invited comment to its officials at an open meeting of a public agency, it cannot censor any comment, however unfair or damaging, that relates to the official activities of the agency, its officers or other personnel.
You can read Terry’s entire response here.
So Ladies and Gentelmen, have at it. Feel free to talk to your elected representatives at their public meetings. Feel free to reference their actions and call them out by name. They can run, but they can’t hide from your right to free speech. When it comes to public comment, City Hall is the one place where everyone CAN know their names.
Speak now, and never hold your peace.
Just in case you don’t remember, below is the video of the conduct by Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez I’m talking about.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzL08u53SwI&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]