Monday, December 1, 2014

Standards of Conduct, Gloucester County Board of Supervisors

In the Agenda for Dec. 2, 2014 BOS meeting:
There is a proposal to add the following to the STANDARDS OF CONDUCT GLOUCESTER COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Citizens appearing before the Board will not be allowed to campaign for public office, promote private business ventures, engage in personal attacks, debate among the audience, use profanity, vulgar or abusive language, or jeer, cheer, or applaud, except during ceremonial matters. The Sergeant-at-Arms may be directed by the Board Chair to remove persons who violate these rules.
This suggests the People and Citizens in the meeting audience are not allowed to reasonably demonstrate consent or non-consent?  What is wrong with minor levels of applauding or even booing?  What is right with having law enforcement engaged as the Sergeant-at Arms?  There are way too many “will not be allowed” items contained in the proposed language.  Rules of order can be created without binding, gagging and intimidating the People and the Citizens.  The People’s and Citizens’ voices should not be limited, ignored nor silenced. 
Section 6-1 of York County’s Board of Supervisors Rules of Procedure is an example of less dictatorial language and reads as follows:
The efficient and dignified conduct of public business is the ultimate concern of the Board.  Accordingly, it is the policy of the Board that its meetings be conducted with the highest degree of order and decorum.  The Board's integrity and dignity will be established and maintained at all times during the conduct of public business, and the Board will permit no behavior which is not in keeping with this policy.  The soliciting of funds, the use of abusive or profane language, personal attacks on Board members, the failure to comply with time limits on speakers, or other forms of offensive conduct will not be tolerated.  The Chairman will maintain proper order at all times during all meetings of the Board and shall effect the removal from any meeting of any person guilty of offensive conduct if the offending party fails or refuses to cease such conduct.
In York County’s rule the necessity of good order is effectively communicated and control of order is placed with the Chairperson, not law enforcement.  On the other hand, York County’s rule also speaks of personal attacks on Board members.  Without a clear definition of personal attack; one would think a speaker can only compliment a Board member.  Each Board member is elected by the People and Citizens; therefore the People and Citizens should be allowed to publicly address issues pertaining to Board members as long as it is done in a respectful and orderly manner. 
Just my 2 cents,
Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.

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