Schuylkill commissioners attempt to limit public comment
The Schuylkill County commissioners are attempting to put additional limits on public comments.
An item on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, shows “a request to adopt and approve” such a policy.
Entitled a “ motion concerning policy regarding public comments at the commissioners’ public meetings,” the two-page motion, which is posted on the county website, co.schuylkill.pa.us, outlines guidelines for public participation in person and virtually.
For example, the time period allotted three minutes to speak.
Those participating virtually who have a question on a printed agenda item “must submit their name and municipality, and the desired words and/or comments to be made which must be submitted in writing to the county clerk no later than 3 p.m. on the day before the meeting. Failure to meet this deadline will permit the chair to exclude those comments.”
“Persons wishing to make comments on a non-agenda item may do so only if their name, municipality and the desired words and/or comments to be made are submitted in writing to the county clerk no later than 3 p.m. on the day before the meeting. Failure to meet this deadline will permit the chair to exclude comments from that individual,” the motion states.
Another section says “other than by county clerk for the sole purpose of preparation of the meeting minutes, there shall be no recording of the meeting either by video or audio unless the person making such a recording first discloses that a recording is being made to the chair.”
Melissa Melewsky, attorney for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said Tuesday the latest proposed changes are “inappropriate barriers to access” and “unreasonable.”
She said the imposed deadline will discourage the public from participating.
“It limits public participation and that’s a problem,” she said.
She said the county should be “welcoming any and all comments on agency business.”
Requiring the public to submit comments in writing is “a significant hurdle to jump through.”
She said the Sunshine Law permits the recording of public meetings, which a Zoom meeting would be.
“This again is another administrative barrier that I think runs afoul of the Sunshine Act,” she said.
There is no notice need when recording at a public meeting.
“Everyone is on notice,” she said.
First Assistant County Solicitor Glenn Roth referred questions to Solicitor Alvin Marshall, who was not in the office Tuesday.
County Administrator Gary Bender did not return a call for comment.