The citizen's input period was short but not so sweet during Monday night’s city council meeting, despite how it was presented on the posted agenda.
While the agenda published by the city for the meeting did not list any restrictions, Mayor Kent Ketcher, took issue with the published version and announced some new rules.
The original agenda item, which was published verbatim in the Miami News-Record on Sunday, read “Citizen's Input and Unscheduled Personal Appearances: Each person wishing to address the City Council regarding items not on the posted agenda will be limited to 3 minutes. The City Council will not take action on the issue presented unless it is already on the agenda at this time, but will schedule the matter for an upcoming agenda if appropriate. The matter will be referred to the City Manager for action if appropriate.”
The Mayor opened Citizen's Input immediately after the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance by asking if anyone was present that wanted to speak on any item on the agenda.
Local businessman Jay Calan was the first to speak.
“I would like to speak on citizen's input. I just wanted to get up here and to say thank you to each and every one of you to bring freedom of speech back to Miami and each of you voted for it and I want to thank you for it. Thank you,” he said.
The mayor thanked Calan for his comments and asked if there was any other citizen input.
Miami Area Chamber of Commerce Director Ian Drake asked if he could speak on a non-agenda item.
“No sir, it has to be an agenda item. That's my rule. Regardless of how the News-Record reported it, that's the procedure we will follow,” Mayor Ketcher said.
Ketcher went on to state the new rules.
“You will be required to state your name, your address and give the agenda item or items you want to speak on and you'll have three minutes to do that. And the Council and myself and staff reserve that right during the Mayor and city staff comments on the agenda. That's the way the game will be played folks,” Mayor Ketcher added.
Drake later said that he did not want to comment on the issue but said during the meeting that what he wanted to speak about was inviting the council members to the Chamber's Goodwill Tour to Oklahoma City.
Ketcher also reprimanded Calan during the meeting when the subject of the Goodwill Tour was brought up by the city manager and one council member joked that he hadn’t been invited. Calan commented from the audience that that is what Drake was going to say at the public comment period.
Ketcher stopped the meeting, pointed at Calan and said “I want to make a comment that when you're in this chamber, and we’re doing city business, I would appreciate that the comments from the peanut gallery not be made. If you want to make comments I'll ask you to step outside or a police officer will escort you outside. We will have respect in this council meeting from everybody, which includes you.”
After the meeting, Mayor Ketcher refused to comment about his discrepancy in the rules or his remarks to Calan.
“I don't want to comment on the thing,” and pointed to City Attorney David Anderson.
“What I have to do is let the Mayor and City Council members work through and establish their own rules and if it needs to come back on the agenda that's what they'll have to do,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that he had not written the agenda item and that the language is close to what was on previous agendas but was not the exact wording and referred questions on it to Miami City Clerk, Pat Lee.
When contacted Tuesday, Lee said she used the exact same wording on this agenda as in previous meeting agendas.
The minutes from the Feb. 16 City Council meeting on the issue, which were approved at Monday's meeting, said, “Discussion was held on possible wording/handling of public comments during council meetings. Councilman Trussler made a motion to place the item after the Pledge of Allegiance, with no restrictions other than it be done in a respectful manner. The motion was seconded by Councilman Atkinson.”