Friday, May 27, 2011

To Speak or Not to Speak on Consent Agenda Items at Deerfield Beach City Commission Meetings

It has been mentioned that I do not understand Roberts Rules (RR).  

At the May 17, 2011 meeting I got up and spoke, I prefaced my comments with the statement "I know this may be the wrong time", but I did so to illustrate a point.  That the public (All Citizens of Deerfield Beach) as a whole was being excluded from fully participating in the political process due to underhanded tactics of the City Commission

Our City Commission has stated that rules and procedures as set forth by blah, blah, blah clearly indicate the public cannot speak on Consent Agenda Items or anything being discussed that night.  Many of you would agree with that statement and basically boo, hiss, and ridicule anyone who would disagree or step out of line with what you have been lead to believe is true.

My question is,  has anyone actually read the City Commission rules for meeting procedures under resolution no. 2007/052?


Has anyone actually read the City Charter regarding meeting procedures?


Well, let me tell you this.  I have and there is no language prohibiting or restricting the topics that the public can discuss at public meetings.  There is no language prohibiting the public from participating in the actual discussion being had by the City Commissioners regarding Consent Agenda Items.
What about the fact that the City’s agenda’s clearly states “Persons addressing the Commission during this segment may not discuss items that are on the agenda."

Well, there is no language in the Charter or resolution 2007/052 that supports that assertion.  The Charter does indicate under section 3.15.

2)   Regular.  The commission shall meet regularly not less than once each month and at such times and places as shall be specified by resolution. All meetings, formal or informal, of the city commission, all committees and all boards, elective or appointive, administrative or advisory, shall be conducted in open session and the press and public shall be permitted to attend any of such meetings, except such private, executive sessions as may be permitted by law. 

(6)   Rules and journal.  The commission shall determine its own rules and order of business and shall provide for keeping a written record or journal of its proceedings. The journal shall be a public record. 

So, since the Commission establishes its own rules, let’s look at those rules as set forth under resolution 2007/052.

There is no language establishing a prohibition or limitation on the subjects that the public can speak on at a City Commission meeting, except Section 8.2 “Personal and Slanderous remarks” and Section 8.4 “reading of Protest” both are listed under “Citizens rights”.  Section 8.2 basically states that you can’t trash talk a Commissioner and if you do they can boot you from that meeting.  Section 8.4 states that if an individual wants to read a protest statement, petition, or communication (I assume an email, letter, telegraph, etc…) on an item being discussed in the Consent Agenda they have to get Commissioner approval with a majority vote. 

That’s all!

Now, you are probably saying well that is where it comes from.  Did you notice the title “reading of protest” and do you understand the fundamental difference between “reading” as opposed to “discussing” items on the agenda?

Webster defines:
Reading a : to perform the act of reading words :. c : to deliver aloud by or as if by reading; specifically : to utter interpretively
Discuss : to investigate by reasoning or argument b : to present in detail for examination or consideration<discussed plans for the party>c : to talk about

Now, you might be also saying that they just added it because they can make up their own rules.  Well, the rules may not prohibit the public discussion of agenda items but it does establish the process to suspend or amend any of the rules as set forth in resolution 2007/052 in Section 9 entitled (what else) “Suspension and Amendment of these rules”. These processes basically are basically the same as with any other resolution or amendment.  To suspend a provision of the rules of 2007/052 takes a majority vote of the Commission and only temporarily suspends said provision.  To amend or to adopt a new rule takes a majority vote of all members of the Commission (guess they won’t be doing this until after July 19, 2011 when the full Commission will convene because the District 2 seat will be filled and the residents of that District will again be able to participate in the political process as set forth by their 14th Amendment Constitutional rights) and all proposed amendments or new rules must have been entered into record at a prior Commission meeting.

I have pointed this out to the City Attorney and he indicated that he will be looking into it.  For a budgeted $500,000+ a year for legal counsel(s) it seems this City has a lot of legal issues established before 2010/2011 that should have been addressed, researched, and corrected.   What’s next up a bat for its legal ambiguity that the City?  This year alone, the language regarding appointments and special elections has been tested and failed.  The prohibition of public discussion on agenda items is being tested right now by this blogger and after review by the City Attorney and other legal counsel I am confident that it will most likely fail.

I personally believe this is a case of “Just because the City Mayor, Commissioners, Manager, Clerk, and staffers say something it doesn’t mean it’s true.”  We as citizens have to make sure we look in to it and verify any information they provide.  I’d love to start with the numbers on the Fire Department and the cost benefits and savings we get with this current set up, as opposed to other options.  Then if our City did anotheround of layoffs (with all departments considered) I would feel secure in the knowledge that our City has done its due diligence and exhausted every option before pulling the proverbial rug up from under one person whose job could have been saved because the City did all their homework instead of looking only at the quick fixes, such as layoffs, privatization, tax increases, and new taxes. 

I will pose 2 more questions, well 2 statements and 2 questions. 

Statement 1:  Since this resolution, establishing the rules and procedures of the City Commission Meetings was conceived, developed, written, and passed in 2007 with Marty Popelsky, Sylvia Poitier, and Pam Militello on the Commission, along with Gonot and Capellini.

Question 1:  Wouldn't these individuals have known that they did not create any language that prohibits the public from speaking on consent agenda items?

Statement 2: Since it was reviewed, discussed on June 23, 2007 by the current group of elected officials Mayor Peggy Noland with Commissioners Bill Ganz, Marty Popelsky, Joseph Miller, and the now suspended Commissioner Sylvia Poitier and an amendment was actually attempted on September 1, 2009 on provision 8.1 which was introduced by Popelsky.

Question 2: Is it unreasonable to assume that this new crop of elected officials should have known that the Commission Meeting rules and procedures as established by resolution no. 2007/052 does not prohibit the publics right to speak on consent agenda items and therefore should have removed the false and misleading statement from the "Public to be Heard" agendas indicating that the public can not speak on items discussed during that nights meeting?


Since our the Commissioners and Management like to compare Deerfield EBach to other cities, let's compare how other cities treat the publics right to participate in the political process by looking at their statements on their published Agenda's.

Pompano Beach

Fort Lauderdale

Delray Beach, which actually has an entire page attached to its' published agenda referencing the public participation.

Click to Enlarge
Boca Raton


(Prior to consideration of a motion to approve the Consent Agenda, the Mayor shall provide for public comment. Those items removed from the Consent Agenda will be considered immediately following the vote on the Consent Agenda or as otherwise directed by the City Council.)


Citizens are entitled to speak to any item scheduled for public hearing. All public speakers will be unscheduled and will be heard in order of receipt of their submittal to the Treasurer-Clerk during the meeting. The Commission does not usually take public comment on other agenda items not scheduled for public hearing, but the City Commission may, at the discretion of the Mayor, recognize speakers for these items.  Speakers on other topics will be heard at the end of the meeting, and likewise will be called in the order by which their speaker form was received by the Treasurer-Clerk during the meeting. Speaker forms are available in the support column at the entryway to the City Commission Chambers. For more information, call the City Manager's Office at 891-8200.

Weston-Our rules as set forth under resolution 2007/052 almost mirror this but yet we are not allowed to speak.

Anyone wishing to address the Commission with regard to a matter appearing on the Agenda or during audience comments must sign in with the City Manager or his designee.  Each individual must state his or her name and the name of the entity represented (if applicable) and the item on the agenda to be addressed prior to conclusion of the  discussion of the matter.  Each person 
addressing the Commission shall approach the lectern, shall give their name and address in an audible tone of voice for the record, and unless further time is granted by the Presiding Officer, shall limit their address to three (3) minutes.  All remarks shall be addressed to the Commission as a body and not to any member thereof.  A person speaking on an item on the agenda shall limit their comments to matters relevant to the item.  A person speaking during audience commentsshall not address any item on the  agenda and  is  strongly encouraged to refrain from making political statements.  No person addressing the Commission shall make personal attacks on any member of  the Commission or any other individuals or  entities.  No person, other than the 
Commission and the person having  the floor, shall be permitted to enter into any  discussion,either directly or through a member of the Commission, without the permission of the Presiding Officer.  No question shall be asked of a Commissioner except through the Presiding Officer. 

McAllen, Texas

1. CONSENT AGENDA:   [All matters listed under Consent Agenda are considered to be routine by the Governing Body and will be enacted by one motion.  There will be no separate discussion of these items; however, if discussion is desired, that item(s) will be removed from the Consent Agenda and will be considered separately.]

A) ROUTINE ITEMS: [All Rezonings and Conditional Use Permits listed under this section come with a favorable recommendation from the Planning & Zoning 
Commission and will be enacted by one motion.  However, if there is opposition at the meeting or a discussion is desired, that item(s) will be removed from the Routine Items section of the agenda and will be considered separately.]

Deerfield Beach

Persons addressing the Commission during this segment may not discuss items that are on the agenda.  A three (3) minute time limit will be imposed on those addressing the Commission.  The Commission shall take the subject under advisement and refer to administration unless a majority of the Commission wishes to discuss the matter.

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