July 25, 2012 | LXXII, No. 17

Free speech at city council addressed

An Electric City man received some degree of clarity from the city’s attorney about speaking at city council meetings.

Jeff Eiffert had problems with the council’s recent policy decision to limit people from bringing complaints directly to the council in public session.

Eiffert then contacted the state’s attorney general, who stated that if the council had a time for public discourse in its meetings, members couldn’t limit what people wanted to talk about.

The city then sent a copy of the attorney general’s letter to City Attorney Katherine L. Kenison, who wrote Eiffert to clarify the issue.

In her letter to Eiffert she states: “Council adopted a set of council rules governing council procedures and policies. These rules include a council policy that citizen complaints will not be heard or considered by the council when brought directly to the council during a meeting.”

Later in the same letter, Kenison wrote: “The council policy in no way deprives any citizen of their right to speak at the meeting during the public comment portion of the agenda; rather, the council has adopted a rule for itself that it will not hear or consider the complaint at that time, thereby allowing the necessary investigation and/or research into the complaint before providing a response. So, while any citizen may raise a complaint during the public comment period, the council will not respond to the complaint but will simply listen and refer the matter to the appropriate staff member or official for further investigation and research.”

Eiffert was trying to make sense of the city’s position.

“It looks like they are going to do whatever they want,” he said Monday.

“It appears that people just don’t care that their rights are being trampled on,” he added.

Eiffert said he would continue to attend council meetings (he was there again Tuesday night).

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