The Greene County Board of Commissioners has approved a set of rules and guidelines on how their public meetings will be conducted.
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The most significant changes are that residents who want to address the board during their public meetings, held every week on Thursdays, will be limited to three minutes at the podium and the subject matter must be directly related to items that are on the commissioner’s agenda for that day.
Also, anyone wishing to address the board during the public meetings will be required to sign in.
“Questions or topics on non-agenda items may be submitted in writing to the county administrator for consideration and response at a later time. Questions raised during the public comment portion of the meeting will not be addressed,” the rules state.
The move has drawn criticism from some politically-active residents who regularly attend the meetings.
At today’s meeting, Kim McCarthy addressed the board about an email she sent 10 days prior to which she never received a reply.
In the Nov. 20 email she sent to County Clerk Lisa Mock and copied to Commissioners Tom Koogler and Alan Anderson, McCarthy asked when the new meeting rules were ever discussed in a public session.
“I haven’t received anything back yet. It’s been 10 days. Is that how the response to citizen input is going to go? I have a number of emails actually that have been just neglected in the past,” McCarthy said at the podium.
Commission President Bob Glaser responded, telling McCarthy “The bottom line is, we’re always open.”
Glaser said if she has unanswered questions on a topic that isn’t addressed during the commissioners’ “business meeting,” she should schedule an appointment to speak with a commissioner and the same goes for the administrator.
“There’s no intent ... to cut off transparency,” he said.
Glaser clarified that they are happy to answer questions raised from a citizen during a meeting, but the answer may not be provided during the meeting, in the interest of running a more efficient “business meeting.”
Though it is standard practice for local governmental entities to include public comments during open meetings, it is not required by Ohio law.
Huddleson said after the meeting that the new rules are an attempt to control the proceedings of open meetings in which members of the public are allowed to comment. He said similar sets of rules and guidelines are used by other surrounding counties and municipalities.
“Without any rules or guidelines, melee can ensue,” he said. “We gleaned what we could from the other municipalities, cities and counties and put together what we thought would work for us.”
Huddleson said he doesn’t think the rules will significantly change how the meetings are conducted.
“Part of the citizen comment portion of the meeting is to allow the commissioners to hear comments from citizens. It’s not to engage in a dialogue. If they want to engage in a dialogue that’s better served in an individual meeting,” he said. “We’re always available to set up a meeting or to have a conversation.”
The county audio records the commission meetings and those recordings can be obtained on compact disc at a cost. County officials have installed cameras in the commissioners room and are in the process of testing the system and training employees on how to use it. The county is expected to start providing video footage of commission meetings some time early next year.
The new rules are posted outside the commissioners meeting room at the county administration building, 69 Greene St., Xenia.