Mayor clarifies new rules for public speakers at Greensboro City Council meetings
On Oct. 3, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan responded to the YES! Weekly article “Mayor sets new rules for public speakers at Greensboro City Council meetings” with the following clarification. The full text of her verbal statement in a phone call is below:
“For instance, the women who got up and had concerns about GTA, that’s fine. So is people getting up and talking about issues they have with, say, the police not enforcing traffic violations like speeding or running red lights or the lack of response to calls in East Greensboro, things that are generic. It’s not meant to stop those types of conversations that are concerns about departments rather than individuals. But when it’s a conversation about a specific employee, that’s where it changes a little bit. Especially when it’s about an employee and can be about their personnel record, something we really can’t do anything about. There have been incidents where people have spoken about specific officers and employees and accused them of things, they have never been found guilty of, and that’s where the issue is. The forum for the public to pursue that would be either the police review board or through the HR department. When we get into personnel records and things like that, the city council meeting is not the appropriate venue.”
Later that day, Mayor Vaughan forwarded an email sent to her by city attorney Chuck Watts, in which Watts wrote “See attached revised draft. I made the changes we discussed and a few more.”
The following document, a revision and expansion of the rules the mayor read aloud at the Oct. 2 council meeting, was appended:
Mayoral Comments About Procedure at Public Comment Sessions
In the light of our last Public Comment Sessions and with the feedback that I received from citizens and upon the advice of City Attorney, Chuck Watts, I have decided as Mayor to further clarify our procedures. I hope this will help to focus these sessions on topics that are relevant for this forum. To that end, I want to identify three areas in particular that will be deemed out of order for this forum. I also want to mention a general tenet of behavior that is part of the code of conduct for all of our boards and commissions and will be respected here. My purpose in doing this is to help focus these Public Comment sessions on topics appropriate for this forum.
1) Comments primarily focused upon the performance of particular city employee that I deem to be an “attack” will not be entertained in this forum and will be ruled out of order. There is a process for performance reviews and members of the public are free to provide any such commentary, for example, to the City’s Human Resources department or Police Review Board where that information might be appropriately addressed. This council has the authority to hire and fire a very limited set of city employees and all employees have a right to have their performance reviews handled confidentially. So, the place for such commentary would be in the appropriate office of the city staff.
2) Comments primarily focused upon matters that are in litigation will not be entertained in this forum. Litigation occurs in the courts and I will rule out of order comments by individuals that appear to be intended to impact the litigation process through public comment during our meetings. This is not an alternative forum for promoting any particular citizen’s view of matters that are being addressed in court.
3) Comments that seem to be intended to incite unlawful behavior within this room or outside this room will be deemed to be out of order. This is a forum for this council to hear from the Citizens of Greensboro about matters of concern that can be addressed by the council.
Of course, the City of Greensboro is committed to promoting an environment that is free of discrimination, bias, and bullying. Thus, harassment, words, jokes, actions or comments based on an individual’s sex, sexual preference, race, ethnic background, age, religion, physical condition or other legally protected characteristic will not be tolerated.
Conduct or actions which I deem to violate any of these requirements will be grounds for immediate removal from the room.