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Conduct at meetings concerns officials

Published September 11. 2013 05:39PM

A Lower Towamensing Township official believes that behavior needs to improve at board of supervisors meetings.

To further stress that point, a copy of the township's "conduct at meeting" ordinance was placed alongside Tuesday's board meeting agenda.

Supervisor Ron Walbert stated that he believes that last month's board of supervisors meeting was a "less than desirable way to run a meeting."

In particular, Walbert said there were certain individuals at that meeting who did not conduct themselves in a proper manner.

Further, Walbert noted that township solicitor Jim Nanovic expressed to him after last month's meeting that it was not well run.

As part of their agenda, the board was to have had state police discussion; however, Walbert said it appeared as though state police were unable to attend.

"We need to be more firmer," Walbert said. "We need to stop this 'character assassination.'"

Walbert said he believes supervisors are more than fair to residents who wish to speak under the public comment portions of the meetings.

"I think we extend every courtesy to everybody who comes to the meeting," he said. "There's no place for 'character assassination.'"

Walbert added "Sometimes, words can lead to actions."

In October of 2011, supervisors adopted a "conduct at meeting" ordinance pursuant to Section 710.1 of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which states the following:

• 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.

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