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updated: 3/5/2014 5:18 PM

Wauconda trustee calls for public-comment rules

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  • John Barbini

      John Barbini

 
 

Angered by an audience member's outburst at a recent board meeting, Wauconda Trustee John Barbini is calling for rules governing public comments at future sessions.

In prepared remarks read at Tuesday's board meeting, Barbini suggested time limits and rules concerning the frequency of speakers during meetings.

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"This action is long overdue," he said.

The public-comment section of Wauconda's village board meetings was moved to the start of sessions earlier this year. It previously had been at the end of the agenda.

Officials have talked here and there about having two public comment sections -- one at the beginning and one at the end -- and many residents have supported that proposal.

No action has been taken on the matter, however.

There are no published rules for public comment in Wauconda, or time limits for remarks from the audience. Likewise, agendas don't include rules about comment content or decorum.

Many local school, village and county boards have such regulations.

"Absent any such rules, I will oppose adding another public comment to the business meeting agenda," Barbini said Tuesday.

His remarks came a week after a resident stood up during Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner's long presentation about the possible outsourcing of 911 services and demanded Maxeiner wrap it up so the public could speak. The man received some applause from the crowd before Maxeiner continued his presentation.

Barbini was not amused.

"Bad practice must not be rewarded by adding additional opportunity for public comment without rules in place," he said Tuesday.

Barbini said he respects the citizens' rights to share opinions on public issues and to question government. That right, however, must be balanced by rules that are fair, posted on agendas and "consistently enforced at each meeting," he said.

"The time has come to get serious on the matter," Barbini added. He asked the village staff to look into rules "sooner rather than later."

Other trustees agreed with Barbini's remarks and asked Maxeiner to study the issue and get back to them.

Not everyone in the room was pleased with Barbini's stand, however. After the meeting, a resident confronted him at the dais about the issue and they exchanged heated remarks.

Some people took to Facebook on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Local business owner Maria Weisbruch said she's happy officials are pursuing rules for public comment. But she also said she was disappointed the crowd "received a lecture based on one man's frustrated outburst in the last meeting."

In his own Facebook remarks, resident Tim Howe agreed a balance between public comments and the need for a board to do the public's work is necessary.

"Also, there's nothing to stop citizens from communicating directly to their representatives, letting them know opinions (and) correcting misperceptions," Howe wrote. "It doesn't all have to be done in the context of a formal meeting."

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