Lower Towamensing Township hopes it has a new mechanism in place that will improve conduct at its board of supervisors meetings.
Supervisors, on a 2-0 vote, with Supervisor Todd Solt absent, adopted a "conduct at meeting" ordinance on Tuesday pursuant of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.
Ron Walbert, supervisors chairman, told the audience the board felt it necessary to adopt the ordinance, which includes six new rules.
Township solicitor Jim Nanovic read the rules, which are as follows:
- The board of supervisors shall provide reasonable opportunity at each advertised regular and special meeting for residents and taxpayers of the township to comment on matters of concern, official action or deliberation, which are or may be before the board.
- Any resident and/or taxpayer who wishes to address the board shall, upon recognition by the chairman of the board of supervisors, be heard under the heading "Business from persons present" at the beginning of the meeting. Each such individual shall be permitted to speak for five minutes. The chairman of the board of supervisors does have the authority to recognize persons present at other times during the course of the meeting at the discretion of the chairman.
- Any person who shall disturb the peace of the meeting, make impertinent or slanderous remarks, or conduct himself in a boisterous manner while addressing the board of supervisors will forfeit any further time in which he or she may address the board of supervisors at that meeting. During such address to the board of supervisors, the individual shall make no references to personalities and shall refrain from foul and abusive language. Further, such person may be removed from the meeting by the board of supervisors at its discretion.
- Each speaker will be required to sign in before speaking. Each speaker will be given an allotted time of five minutes to speak. This allotted time of five minutes shall commence from the beginning of the speaker's remark and include any time that passes during questioning between the speaker and the board of supervisors.
- The board of supervisors' meetings shall be conducted in a courteous manner. Citizens and board members will be allowed to state their positions in an atmosphere free of slander and threats of violence. Sufficient warnings may be given by the chairman at any time during the remarks, and, in the event that any individual shall violate the rules of decorum heretofore set forth, the chairman may then cut off further comment.
- Each member of the board of supervisors and every member of the public shall be required to utilize a silent alert mode on or to mute the electronic devices in their possession, including, but not limited to cellular telephones, pagers, radios, personal date assistants, and any electronic item that can be disturbing.
Planning Commission member Jay Mullikin said he believes the ordinance is "a great idea."
Fellow planning commission member Peter Terp said he agreed.
Resident Gerry Madden, a former township supervisor, asked "what took so long?
Walbert said the ordinance doesn't attempt to curtail comments from the public.
"This is not meant to stifle anyone's comments," Walbert said. "I think it's a valid thing that needs to be done."
Nanovic noted several other local municipalities have similar policies in effect.
Resident Herman Bollinger questioned which municipalities, to which Nanovic said the boroughs of Palmerton and Lehighton.
Walbert said he believes the rules of conduct will help meetings run more efficiently.
"We're just trying to keep the meetings moving," Walbert said. "Nobody should be afraid to speak their mind."