At its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners modified its rules related to public commentary, shortening the time available per speaking turn and eliminating one of two agenda slots for public commentary. [.pdf of revised board rules & regulations]
The board’s rules and regulations, adopted at the beginning of each year, were modified in three ways. Most significantly, the second of two opportunities for public commentary was eliminated at both the board meeting and the ways & means committee meeting. The times slated for commissioner response to public commentary at the end of those two meetings was also eliminated. Previously, public commentary and commissioner response were provided near the start and end of each board meeting and each ways & means committee meeting. Now there will be only one opportunity for public commentary at the start of each meeting, followed by commissioner response.
In addition, the five minutes alloted per speaker during general public commentary at the board meeting has been reduced to three minutes each. The time alloted for commentary at public hearings (held on a specific topic) has also been cut from five to three minutes per speaker. Three minutes is already the current time alloted for public commentary at the board’s ways & means committee, where the bulk of the board’s business is conducted.
The original rules-change proposal called for eliminating the second public commentary at the board’s working sessions as well. Yousef Rabhi, who was re-elected chair of the working session at the Jan. 4 meeting, proposed an amendment to keep both public commentary slots in place at the working sessions. His amendment also kept the five minutes alloted per speaker for public commentary at the working sessions. Rabhi’s amendment was approved unanimously.
The third change in the board’s rules & regulations relates to the eligibility of county employees for claiming per diem and mileage. Under previous rules adopted in 2011, no county employee could claim a per diem or mileage reimbursement for service on a county board, committee or commission. The current rules adopted on Jan. 4, 2012 now apply that rule only to regular, benefitted county employees. This allows part-time county employees who receive no county benefits to receive a per diem and mileage payment. The rule does not apply to county commissioners – their per diem and mileage are handled under separate flex accounts, which were not changed.
There was only one vote taken on the overall changes to the board’s rules & regulations. It passed on a 10-1 vote, with dissent from Rolland Sizemore Jr. However, Felicia Brabec and Ronnie Peterson wanted the record to reflect that they were voting against eliminating public commentary. Peterson also voted against reducing the time allotment to three minutes.
This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]