For the record. The GCPD has been put on notice about some officers’ inappropriate interactions with citizens. Eventually, we may be looking at a 1984 situation.
Handbook for Georgia Mayors and Councilmembers
Following is a link to the section of the Glynn County documents that you and I discussed last week. This is the approved Public Comment Policy for the Island Planning Commission. I have also attached a pdf file where I have highlighted the sections that you and I talked about. The pdf makes it very easy for you to quickly reference the sections that are relevant.
Section I clearly explains that the purpose of the Policy is to “…provide citizens with an opportunity to speak and to be heard…”
Section III outlines the administration of the Public Comment Period.
Please pay particular attention to Sections IV. and V.
Section IV contains discussion about matters where citizens will NOT BE PERMITTED to speak, and it specifically references “…matters or issues not under the jurisdiction or control of the IPC”. As you know, the charge of the IPC as contained is Ordinance 619 and in the Subdivision Regulations is to, in fact, enforce certain of the county Ordinances relative to commercial and residential development. Therefore, those are, indeed, matters under the jurisdiction of the IPC.
Section V contains the guidelines for decorum and speech relative to the citizen and a prohibition against personal attacks. That is followed by this sentence :
Any speaker who violates any part of this Policy or is disruptive will be asked to stop such behavior and/or may be removed at the discretion of the Chairperson or the Commissioner presiding over the Public Comment Period.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE “DISCRETION OF THE CHAIRMAN” DOES NOT EXTEND TO WHAT HE DOES NOT LIKE OR APPROVE. The Chairman DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY to gavel down someone just because he does not like what they are saying.
The purpose of my discussion with you and the purpose of this E Mail is to demonstrate to you that the citizen comment is TOTALLY OPEN to a discussion about the business that is pending before the IPC, whether the citizen wishes to comment on the developer applications that are included on the Agenda or whether the citizen wishes to discuss the county ordinance that is involved or applicable to that application. The citizen may, given the relatively general guidelines, discuss anything that is specific to the business pending before the IPC. As long as the citizen is commenting on the IPC business and is NOT attacking any individual AND stays within the 5 minutes limitation, the citizen is free to discuss what he or she considers to be issues that are relevant to that specific application.
At no time is the Public Comment Policy limited to “process” or “procedure” as has been the contention of the Chairman of the IPC.
In fact, the Chairman has arbitrarily cut off speakers who refused to discuss ONLY WHAT THE CHAIRMAN SAID THAT THEY MUST DISCUSS (i.e. process) and the Chairman has had those speakers removed from the podium.
The Chairman DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO DICTATE WHAT THE CITIZEN MAY DISCUSS. If the Chairman wishes to control the speech of an individual citizen, then he must follow the provisions in Section VI. which clearly explains that the stated Policy is in effect and any changes to the stated and printed Policy REQUIRES THE AFFIRMATIVE VOTE OF AT LEAST FOUR MEMBERS OF BOTH THE IPC AND THE GLYNN COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS.
Your officers that have been stationed at the IPC have apparently been instructed to obey the dictates of the Chairman.
Unfortunately the Chairman does not follow the stated and approved Policy, and the result is that your officers are acting improperly and inappropriately.
The purpose of this E Mail is to request that you make certain that the GCPD officers are adequately instructed as to the ACTUAL POLICY and that you instruct the officers to enforce the Policy as written rather than follow the arbitrary instructions of the Chairman of the IPC. You also need to know that the Chairman does not know nor does he follow Robert’s Rules of Order and he routinely mismanages the conduct of the meetings which exacerbates his poor administrative skills in performing as Chairman.
Given your law enforcement training I have no doubt that you have a comprehensive understanding of the 1st Amendment regarding free speech and the right of redress for any citizen. The Public Comment Period embodies that concept, and for the Chairman to attempt to unilaterally alter the Policy and to dictate that GCPD officers back up his flawed instructions has proved problematic. The fact that Glynn County has avoided a law suit claiming 1st Amendment violations has been a stroke of luck so far.
Finally, your officer Marion Hair is particularly quick to impose the unreasonable and illegal control of the citizens speaking when the Chairman improperly instructs the speaker to stop and to only talk about that which the Chairman considers acceptable. It appears to me that Officer Hair has instructions, whether from you or from IPC Chairman Duncan, to react without hesitation at the first hint of the Chairman’s conflict with any citizen. There have been a number of times when the Chairman has improperly cut off citizens exercising their 1st Amendment rights and fully complying with the Public Comment Policy and Officer Hair has reacted instantly to make threatening gestures toward the citizen. I would have said with a hair trigger, but somehow that seemed to be overkill.
There are other people who you make speak to if you wish to confirm what I am saying, and if you will let me know I will be pleased to have them contact you about their experience at the IPC meetings. One of the people who was cut off and removed from the podium is a retired lawyer and all of the people who have been affected so far are reputable people who are not radicals or anarchists but simply property owners and citizens who are only interested in protecting their property rights and their quality of life. I will be happy to have them contact you if you wish.
Bottom line is during the last 4 or 5 years, I have never seen any citizen make an attempt to physically assault any member of the IPC or any county staff person. Of course there has been some heated discussions, but nothing more than some raised voices. In fact, there has never been GCPD officers necessary to be stationed throughout the room until this Chairman took over at the first of the year. Throughout the previous five years and without the officers present, there has NEVER BEEN a single physical confrontation.
Please let me know your thoughts.