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  • Last modified 209 days ago (April 24, 2019)

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Florence city council curbs public comments

Staff writer

Florence city council announced Monday that people who want to comment at future public meetings must first fill out a form detailing their request.

“I’m not having any more council meetings that are out of control,” mayor Bob Gayle said. “There is no provision in Kansas state law for city councils to hear anything from the public. The public’s right is to come and see, and hear what’s happening, and witness what’s happening.”

The decision is legal under Kansas open meeting laws as long as there is no discrimination accorded by topic, said Max Kautsch via phone, an attorney with Kansas Press Association.

The council made the decision during a meeting April 8, but it was discussed again Monday. To be approved for comment in a city council meeting, applicants will have to summarize their statements and include copies of any supporting documents, and must do so by the Wednesday prior to the meeting.

A few present said they might not know of the council’s agenda in advance.

“What if we don’t know until we get to the meeting, and then we want to talk about it,” community member Barb Creamer said.

Council members will be able to open topics up for discussion if they see fit, Gayle said.

The form is an improvement because it provides a paper trail of past discussions, councilman Matt Williams said.

“What I like about the form is that there’s documentation,” Matt Williams said. “If you put that to Janet, there’s now a copy that says you complained about a dog.”

While it sounds like a viable option, there is no guarantee the new system will be used, councilman Trayce Warner said.

“We already have dog complaint forms that people don’t seem to be aware of, or choose not to fill, because it’s their neighbor or whatever,” Warner said. “I don’t see that this new form is going to get filled out any more than the last one did.”

If the new system is to work well, council members will have to make sure they pick up their own paperwork before a meeting, councilman Ken Hoffman said.

“Along with this, council members have to pick up their packets ahead of time and do their homework,” he said.

Last modified April 24, 2019

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