Brentwood Library Board Adopts a Speaker Policy
They haven't had one until now because visitors have been so rare. Councilwoman Maureen Saunders spoke at last week's emergency meeting, and the board president said it went too long.
The Brentwood Library Board now has a policy for visitors to their meetings who would like to speak to the board.
At last week’s emergency meeting to discuss the tax rate, which Alderwoman Maureen Saunders attended, there was no board policy for speakers.
Board President Sheila Lenkman said visitors’ comments were at the end of the agenda, but Saunders said she wanted to speak before the vote.
“Out of courtesy to her, as an alderperson, we decided to let her speak, and that’s when things kind of got crazy,” Lenkman said. “We should have enforced that to five minutes, which is a reasonable time, and unfortunately it went over an hour.”
At the board meeting on Monday, discussing a policy for speakers was on the agenda.
Library Director Vicki Woods came to the meeting with the results of researching speaker policies around the state, and said some boards have had a similar problems, but theirs was different: an alderperson was trying to find information.
Sherman Lee, a past board vice president was at the regular meeting on Monday, and said no one was at fault in the emergency meeting. He called it “the speed of business.”
“Perhaps what happened at the ways and means and at the emergency board meeting was kind of a perfect storm,” he said. “There’s nothing in place, you have no framework, and this came right to the heart of it, and everyone was tense. The good thing is, everyone was passionate about trying to do the right thing for the city.”
Lenkman said the board meetings have never had visitors before, which is why no policy for speakers was in place.
The board talked about speakers signing up a week in advance, having different rules for invited and uninvited speakers, and time limits.
Board Secretary Brian Rothery said they should set a time limit only if they're prepared to enforce it, otherwise it’s like having no rule at all.
He also said it's good to keep guidelines general.
“Have a set policy that tells them when they can speak and how much, give the president the authority to give them the hook if they’re out of line, and away you go,” Rothery said.
At the meeting, the board decided to postpone drafting its own policy, and for the time being adopted the Richmond Heights Library guidelines.
Lenkman said they liked the Richmond Heights policy because “it is simple, easy to read and understand, and if you post it people might actually read it.”
This is the part of that policy having to do with speakers:
"Any member of the public who wishes to speak to the Board is asked to register upon arrival, indicate group affiliation (if speaking on behalf of anyone other than self), and to limit comments and general information to five minutes."
It also states they welcome documentation to support a comment, and that the library director maintains an open door policy.
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