On December 20, 2017, the City received a public records request from a resident of Rancho Cordova, CA regarding my adjourning the Beaumont City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 for a five minute recess to gain control of the City Council meeting in order for the council to continue cinducting the business of the City. On December 28th, the Deputy City Clerk sent the City's response. You can view the response by Clicking Here.
Following is the requestor's response to the email from the Deputy City Clerk:
From: libi [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 28, 2017 4:59 PM
To: Nicole Wheelwright ; Lloyd White ; Judy Bingham
Subject: Re: Response to Uremovic 12.20.17.pdf
yes, i received the attachments - you did your job nichole....
white has to man-up put it in writing where he got the mentality that the citizen wasn't allowed to speak more than three minutes ..
if lloyd white doesn't put it in writing by the next council meeting - he'll be required to state on record ..
and if white thinks it's going to look better for him that judy bingham has to state in public comment that white has refused to respond to a public records' request - then that's what will happen ..
I am fully aware of my rights as the presiding officer and I am confident the City's response to the public records request was adequate and meets any legal requirements. However, since Ms. Uremovic regularly posts fake news and makes personal slanderous attacks against council, staff and anyone else involved with the City of Beaumont's recovery, I welcome an opportunity to explain and educate Ms. Uremovic in one of the many areas of government she considers herself an expert.
Let's begin with the City of Beaumont's Ordinance 1059 pertaining to City Council Meetings adopted 21st day of July 2015.
- Section 2.04.041 Sets the Mayor as the presiding officer.
- Section 2.04.042 Assigns the presiding office with the responsibility for maintaining the order and decorum of the meeting at all times.
- Section 2.04.044(c) Limits comments from the public to 3 minutes per person per agenda item
The State of California's Government Code adrreses a local agency's authority to set time limits - California Government Code section 54954.3 (b)(1):
- The legislative body of a local agency may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent of subdivision (a) is carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.
Years before I was was on the Beaumont City Council, I was a regular speaker during public comments sections of Beaumont Unified school board meetings and Beaumont City Council meetings. I researched the Brown Act and government code in order to become fully informed of my rights to free speech as well as the governing body's right to be able to conduct their business.
In July of 2015 whle considering my vote to adopt the ordinance I referenced above, I again researched the rights of a local agency to limit speaking time in order to conduct an orderly meeting.
I researched this topic a third time while preparing this response.
All three times my research led me to a case decided by the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit - White (no relations) vs. The City of Norwalk. Following are the two of the final points in the Ninth Circuit's 1990 decision affirming the lower court's opinion in favor of the City of Norwalk. I have highlighted what I feel are relevant to the action I took last month.
Similarly, the nature of a Council meeting means that a speaker can become "disruptive" in ways that would not meet the test of actual breach of the peace, see Gooding, 405 U.S. at 526-27, 92 S.Ct. at 1108, or of "fighting words" likely to provoke immediate combat. See Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 572, 62 S.Ct. 766, 769, 86 L.Ed. 1031 (1942). A speaker may disrupt a Council meeting by speaking too long, by being unduly repetitious, or by extended discussion of irrelevancies. The meeting is disrupted because the Council is prevented from accomplishing its business in a reasonably efficient manner. Indeed, such conduct may interfere with the rights of other speakers.
Of course the point at which speech becomes unduly repetitious or largely irrelevant is not mathematically determinable. The role of a moderator involves a great deal of discretion.Undoubtedly, abuses can occur, as when a moderator rules speech out of order simply because he disagrees with it, or because it employs words he does not like. But no such abuses are written into Norwalk's ordinance, as the City and we interpret it. Speakers are subject to restriction only when their speech "disrupts, disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of the Council meeting." So limited, we cannot say that the ordinance on its face is substantially and fatally overbroad.6 See Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 615, 93 S.Ct. 2908, 2917, 37 L.Ed.2d 830 (1973) (to invalidate statute on its face, overbreadth "must not only be real, but substantial as well, judged in relation to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep.")
On December 19th, I was fully aware of the content of the ordinance I helped adopt and my authority as the presiding officer of the council meeting. I recognized the right of the public to speak and my duty to ensure we were able to conduct the business we had scheduled on our agenda. Mrs. Bingham had made it clear before beginning her comments that she was not going to be limited by time and would speak for as long as she wanted. I waited for a reasonable time after her 3 minutes had expired before asking her to wrap up her comments. I allowed her to continue before asking her again to complete her comments and when she made it clear she had no intention of allowing the meeting to continue, I adjourned for a brief recess.
The following city councils in our region limit public speaking times:
Banning - 5 minutes
Calimesa - 3 minutes
Hemet - 3 minutes
Redlands - 3 minutes
Moreno Valley - 3 minutes