Heartland’s Public Comment Policy

By:  Diane Benjamin

Heartland Community College Board Policy:  Board Policy Manual 6-17-15 POST to WEB

See page 22.  Part of the policy is something some citizens wish other areas of government allowed:

The Board may at any time recognize members of the public for purposes of making formal presentations to the Board. Formal presentations shall be any presentations that require more than five minutes or include media, such as but not limited to PowerPoint, video, or other electronic or audio presentations.  (See the link for more information)

Heartland also has a Public Comment policy for citizens not making formal presentations.  It start off pretty good:

Appearances before the Board regarding items on the Board’s agenda that do not represent a formal presentation as described above, and are less than five minutes, may be accommodated by submitting a request to the Secretary of the Board not less than 20 minutes before the scheduled start of the meeting. Such comments shall be made at the time allotted on the agenda by the Chair of the Board, and the aggregate of all such comments shall not normally exceed 30 minutes. To facilitate an orderly process, appearance requests should be registered on a Board-provided form and submitted to the Secretary of the Board.

Instead of the three minutes other agencies allow, Heartland allows up to five.  20 minutes before the start of a meeting is excessive and shouldn’t be required.

The policy heads downhill from there:

To be recognized, the appearance request shall include the name, address and position of the individual wishing to speak, the name of the organization or group represented, the topic/item to be addressed, and whether the requestor has appeared earlier on the topic before any other meeting of the Board. In lieu of oral presentations, individuals may present brief written materials not to exceed five pages to the Secretary of the Board for distribution and consideration by the Board in advance of the meeting.

None of the information in red is required under the Open Meetings Act and is therefore illegal.  Maybe 20 minutes before the meeting is required so the Board can prepare based on what a citizen submits.

Citizens have a statutory right to address all public bodies.  The Board is already limiting comments to 5 minutes, which is allowed.  The rest of the required information makes it clear the substance of comments is evaluated not on what is said, but who may be represented.

Not a good thing for “public servants”.  It looks suspiciously like Board members will dismiss or listen to comments based on affiliations.





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