A&A: Denying public comment

Denying public comment

Q: Can a City Council deny public comment on an agendized item?  At the start of a Council meeting, the Mayor told the many people present they might speak on any item on the agenda when it came up. When under Administrative Items, there was an item reconsidering a certain program but the Mayor would allow no comment.  Although no mention was made of the qualifications on the item in back-up papers or orally prior to taking up the item, the Mayor said a majority of Council had to support reconsideration for public comment on the item to be allowed.  The reconsideration did not get even a second, so none of the many people expecting to be able to speak was allowed to do so.  Does this accord with the laws governing the conduct of public meetings?

A: Government Code Section 54954.3(a), requires public bodies to allow public comments not only on agenda items but on any item of interest subject to the body’s jurisdiction.  The only exception to the public testimony requirement is where a committee comprised solely of members of the legislative body has previously considered the item at a public meeting in which all members of the public were afforded the opportunity to comment on the item before or during the committee’s consideration of it, so long as the item has not substantially changed since the committee’s hearing.  Gov’t Code § 54954.3(a).