The Douglas County Board will keep the citizens comment portion at its regular weekly meetings.
And board members will be able to briefly respond to people making comments.
County Board members Mike Boyle and Clare Duda had proposed eliminating the citizens comment period, during which the public can comment on items that are not on the meeting agenda. The resolution would not have affected the public’s ability to speak about items on the agenda.
But they backed off the proposal after a public outcry and after Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine addressed the board Tuesday. He told them that they could respond briefly to people during the comments, as long as they didn’t get into discussion or debate about items not on the agenda.
Kleine said the board chair should use his discretion to allow the board to correct false statements from speakers and halt personal attacks.
“Our advice has never been to not allow people to come up and speak their minds,” Kleine said.
The goal is to avoid debates on items not on the agenda, which could violate state open meetings laws and would be unfair to people in the public who didn’t know the topics would be discussed, Kleine said.
Board member Mary Ann Borgeson said board Chair Chris Rodgers has tried to do as Kleine advised but has been “dogged” for it and chaos has resulted.
“Commissioners just need to know how to button up and not get into discussions,” Borgeson said.
Rodgers said he will follow Kleine’s advice.
Said Boyle, “That’s all I was after.”