Oceano attempting to muffle public comment
June 26, 2012
Oceano Community Services District Board members will vote Wednesday on whether to limit public speaker comments to six minutes per meeting in what has been labeled an attempt to create orderly meetings.
District attorney Molly Thurmond is also suggesting that the board approve changing from the current system in which members of the public have an opportunity to speak before every agenda item, to limit public comment to three sessions.
Thurman says that both the cities of Burbank and Santa Monica have similar policies and “are not often in the news for Brown Act Violations.”
Burbank’s City Council voted to limit public comments to only three periods per meeting. However, the public is then permitted to speak for up to 11 minutes.
Santa Monica City Council, following several meetings that ran past 1 a.m. with up to 50 members of the public speaking on an agenda item, voted to limit public comment to six minutes per speaker.
In contrast, Oceano usually only has two to three members of the public in attendance at meetings that last only a few hours. Speakers, however, often question the district’s failure to comply to Brown Act laws and government codes in place to provide transparency and public participation.
For example, at an upcoming meeting attendees plan to speak on the districts failure to comply to state budgeting requirements.
Districts are required to notice a budget hearing in a local paper at least 15 days before the hearing required by law to be set on or before July 1. Oceano Manager Thomas Geaslen said a finance committee meeting, that was not noticed in a local paper of record, counts as the district’s budget hearing and allows him to continue spending after July 1 without the required public budget hearing.