Unconstitutional public comment policy reviewed

Local News

RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — Village leaders are admitting part of their public participation policy at meetings is unconstitutional.

Two years ago, they changed the policy to prevent people from bashing board members. Tuesday night, they discussed changes which might be made to follow the law. 

Recently, the city clerk and a trustee went to a conference where the attorney general laid out the law when it comes to public comment. Shortly after, the clerk drafted an updated policy to comply with that. 

In the past, people in town have complained the wording of the policy restricted their right to free speech. It incudes a rule stating people must “refrain from making insulting remarks toward or about any member of the village board,” employees of the village, or member of the audience during public comment. That violates the Open Meetings Act. 

After the conference, village leaders realized people should be allowed to share their opinions. 

Village clerk Michael Graham says, “The major change is they can say whatever they want at the public meeting. If it’s derogatory to the public officials, so be it. We’re just trying to get out in front of it and get it corrected.” 

Other policy changes include simply writing your name on a sign-in sheet instead of filling out a card with your address and phone number. Plus, they established an allotted time of 30 minutes for public comment. 

Village leaders will vote on the new policy at the board meeting Tuesday.  

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