City will take a second look at public comment rules

Prohibition of personal attacks was left out of council version

A month after passing rules of decorum for public comments at Shawano Common Council and committee meetings, city officials will take another look at their new ordinance next week with an eye to making it clear that personal attacks are also out of bounds.

The ordinance adopted by the Common Council Nov. 8 was intended to mirror similar rules adopted by the Redevelopment Authority in October.

Those rules specifically stated that personal attacks are prohibited during public comment.

The Common Council’s version didn’t include that language.

The discrepancy was discovered after a Leader reporter asked why the council version didn’t cover personal attacks.

Assistant City Administrator Eddie Sheppard, who provides staff support for the RDA, said the reference to personal attacks was added at the RDA’s October meeting as an amendment to the resolution originally proposed.

The version that went to the council was the pre-amendment version.

“We’re going to make that modification at the next (council) meeting,” Sheppard said.

The council’s next regular monthly meeting is Wednesday.

The rules as adopted by the council last month prohibit “profanity, obscenity, shouting, demonstrating support or opposition to comments through clapping, shouting, booing or any other form of distraction and disrespect.”

The rules warn that violators would be removed from the meeting. The rules also prohibit signs from being displayed in the council chambers.

Also, according to the rules, “All participants shall be treated with respect and given a fair and equal opportunity to the process.”

The city has previously followed informal guidelines that required speakers to be city residents or taxpayers and limited comments to three minutes per speaker. Those guidelines were codified as rules under the ordinance unanimously approved by the council last month.

The new rules indicate that speakers should be prepared to show proof of eligibility to speak if requested.

The rules also make clear that council and committee members aren’t allowed to engage in discussion with speakers, only listen to their comments. That has caused confusion in the past when speakers posed questions and received no response.