(Lander, WY) – The Fremont County Commissioners discussed their public comment period during their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5. Public comment has been off their agenda since October 10, 2023.
All of the Commissioners agreed that they did not want to see the public comment period leave their meetings, but the majority thought there needed to be guidelines.
“In this issue with public comment, looking into it, honoring it, even going further than that,” Commissioner Clarence Thomas said. “I truly believe that our county commission should have a public comment, but in that public comment, we have to have specific guidelines. Those guidelines pertain to people’s behavior, limit the time they speak, what they’re speaking on, and the issue pertaining to the agenda of the commission.”
“The issue at hand is not about public comment anymore. … What we’re dealing with and what we’ve dealt with with public comment is the conduct of those who want to speak. … It’s fine for people to come and speak, but it’s not fine when they want to draw into chaos…”
Vice-chair Mike Jones shared he received a number of emails about this and appreciates them.
“I’m okay as long as we can control our meetings,” Vice-chair Jones said. … “I think we could put some guidelines around it and ask that everybody adhere to it, and if we don’t have time, and we need to put it off to another time, then we have the ability to do that. We are well within our statutory right to do that. …”
Commissioner Jennifer McCarty concurred with both Thomas and Jones.
She added, “We are not a town hall. And this chamber is much like a judge’s chambers. You wouldn’t speak out in a judge’s chambers. It’s like a court setting. We are like a legislative session. A subdivision of the state is what we are. We go by our statutes and laws. You do have a voice. We hear your voice. We act on your voice. We are not shutting anything to do with talking to me at any time. I have an open-door policy. That doesn’t mean to come into this room, into this chamber and have disrespect for what goes on in here in an orderly manner. We have this policy set in place, and disorder cannot be tolerated. …”
Commissioner Ron Fabrizius shared that the Commission is neither a legislative nor a judicial body.
“We are an agency,” he said. “And that agency means we have the same working rules as a school board, municipality, a commission, (and) a subcommittee. So we come under open meetings laws, where your legislative body doesn’t have to have open meetings. Your judicial body doesn’t have to have open meetings. But we do. And it states clearly here in my interpretation in state statute 16-4-403 is that the meetings are to be open and participation by the public and we’re to keep minutes. How does the public participate? Well, they bring forth issues and they bring forth concerns. …”
Chairman Larry Allen said, “All the Commissioners had good thoughts. I would propose to Commissioner Thomas that you write up a guideline, if you will, for the public comment period. We will discuss it here in the future. It may be a little out, but we will continue to discuss it. And go from there. …”
You can watch the entire discussion in the video below.