(Juneau) The Dodge County Board received open meeting law training during their monthly meeting this week. One the areas covered was public comments at county board meetings. Sara Diedrick-Kasdorf is director of outreach and member engagement with the Wisconsin Counties Association.
“Now, citizens do not have the right to speak or actively participate in the meeting…there is no right to the public comment period within state statute…it’s allowable but it is not required,” says Diedrick-Kasdorf.
The Dodge County Board does allow for public comments following their meetings. Those interested must sign-in beforehand and are given two minutes to speak. Supervisor Richard Greshay says it does not make sense to have someone speak on a topic that has already been voted on by the board.
“By the time they get to speak at the very end its already been done…so what is the purpose of them coming to speak on an agenda item when the action has already been taken,” says Greshay. “I believe that if they wanted to speak they should be allowed to speak on that part of the agenda not at the end after everything’s all been settled. I don’t think it’s right.”
Diedrick-Kasdorf says there is an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on county matters before they reach the board floor.
“You allow public comments in your committee,” says Diedrick-Kasdorf. “If you have a good, strong committee structure within your county and you trust the work of your county committee’s a really strong recommendation should be coming from that committee to this board. Often times they say, ‘if you trust in your committee process, your board meeting should last no more than 45 minutes.’ Because you trust that recommendation.
“So if a member of the public wants to have input into that discussion item, the committee is really they place to do that not the full county board.”
Dodge County Corporation Counsel Kim Naas reminded the board of their “public speaker” rule. If a person wants to speak they can raise their hand, Naas says if they are recognized and there is no objections by the body they can address an item as it comes up on the agenda.
However, if someone does object a two-thirds majority vote is needed for that person to speak. Naas did say the county board is a representative body and not a participatory body.