The next item included below is North Carolina General Statute 160A-81.1. This statute was enacted by the North Carolina Legislature in 2005. It gives citizens the right to address council and sets the parameters whereby council may establish reasonable rules for such public address of council.
The last item is a definition from Black’s Law Dictionary.
As one can see from the City Ordinances referenced, there is no codified process, as provided in the Council Procedural Flyer of a process to remove items from the consent agenda. Now, does this take into account that such a process may have been adopted and passed by council and that it wasn’t added and thus amending the copy of the City of Hickory Code of Ordinances in the care of MuniCode? It does. Having said that, there is no reference to such an ordinance on the face of that flyer, if a source for the stated process exists. So the origins of the removal process is, at this point, dubious. All of that brings me to the first point. While Attorney Crone’s statement was in itself correct as to the process for adding items to the Agenda for Council, it is woefully inadequate and inapplicable insofar as the removal of items for the consent agenda is concerned. See Hickory City Code Section 2-55 (a) for Mr. Crone’s analysis. Please pay particular attention to what is missing from the City Code with regard to this process, as previously stated.
My next premise is one of general concern and focuses on how this council and administration ignores, or without due regard, fails to update its ordinances relevant to current legislative law and mandates. I’m referring to the law that was passed in 2005 that provides for units of local government to have a time set aside at each public meeting of the governing body to give the public access to council and comment about what’s on that individuals’ mind. This is not a time for interaction or debate, but a time to listen. Too many people try to use it as a time for redress or to engage council and that simply isn’t the case. To seek redress, there is a process that begins by getting on the agenda, outlined by Mr. Crone and by Section 2-55 of the Hickory City Code. But I digress. My point here is, the public address provision was passed in 2005 and the Hickory City Code has not been updated to include it. That’s 7 years folks. Yes, the Council for the City of Hickory has provided that time it appears during each meeting session, they are so detailed oriented so as to lay down the outline of their meeting agendas in an ordinance, but so concerned about State law to make provision in their code to mirror state law or to set the guidelines by which persons may address council during each meeting session. The absence of a set of codified rules says to me that it will be arbitrary and not uniform insofar as addressing council is concerned and quite possibly hinge on who is addressing council. And I think every member now sitting on council was a member in 2005 with the exception of Mr. Guess. There is just no excuse. While Section 2-56 does make provision for addressing council, it is outdated and does not comply with the criteria outlined in NCGS § 160A-81.1.
So that’s my little contribution to this debate. Once again, Hickory City Council is following rules or applying rules to others that are inapplicable or non-existent at least, by the references they themselves provide. Then they leave certain items open for spot interpretation so that they may discern who may or may not dance at their party, if you will. Over and over and over again, rules don’t seem to apply or exist. And when they exist, the legality of the rules existing and being used are likewise a point of contention. The Great State of Hickory… once again strikes fear and intimidation into the hearts of the governed. I’m so proud!
Sec. 2-55. - Agenda.
(a) The city manager shall prepare the agenda for the meeting. A request to have an item of business placed on the agenda must be received by the city clerk or the city manager by 5:00 on the Wednesday preceding the meeting. Only those matter included upon the agenda may be considered at a council meeting, except that the council may, by motion, second and majority vote, agree to consider other matters.
(b) Items shall be placed on the agenda according to the order of business as follows:
(1) Call to order.
(3) Approval of minutes.
(4) Approval of second readings.
(5) Consent agenda.
(6) Items removed from consent agenda.
(7) Unfinished business.
(8) Information items.
(9) New business.
a. Public hearings.(10) Matters not on agenda (requires majority of council to consider).
b. Department reports.
c. Presentation of petitions and requests.
d. Recognition of persons requesting to be heard.
(11) General comments by council of a non-business nature.
(12) Closed session (if needed).
(c) The agenda shall include, for each item placed on it, as much background information on the subject as is available and feasible to reproduce. A copy of all proposed ordinances shall be attached to the agenda. Each council member shall receive a copy of the agenda, and it shall be available for public inspection and/or distribution when it is distributed to the council members.
(d) All persons requesting an item to be placed on the agenda shall state the purpose and subject matter. If the city manager is of the opinion that the request is improper and should not be placed on the agenda, he shall make a notation at the end of the agenda, giving a short summary of the request and the reasons he feels it is improper to be considered. The council, if it so desires, may consider the matter as a matter not on the agenda as set forth above.
(Code 1981, § 2-1(d); Amend. No. 3, 8-18-98)
Sec. 2-56. - Public address to council.
When conducting public hearings, considering ordinances and otherwise considering matters wherein the public has a right to be heard, when it appears that there are persons present desiring to be heard, the mayor shall require those opposing and favoring the proposed action to identify themselves. Each side of the matter shall be given equal time. Those opposing the proposed action shall be allowed 15 minutes for presentation, followed by 15 minutes for those favoring the action, with the opponents then to have five minutes for rebuttal and the proponents to then have five minutes for sur-rebuttal. Those persons on either side shall have the right to divide their allotted time among them as they may choose. The council, by majority vote, may extend the time for each side equally. On matters in which the person desiring to address the council does not have a legal right to speak, the council shall determine whether it will hear the person. The refusal to hear a person desiring to speak may be based upon grounds that the subject matter is confidential, that its public discussion would be illegal, that it is a matter not within the jurisdiction of the council or for any other cause deemed sufficient by the council. Any person allowed to speak who shall depart from the subject under discussion or who shall make personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks, or who shall become boisterous while addressing the council shall be declared out of order by the mayor, or by vote of the council, and barred from speaking further before the council unless permission to continue shall be granted by a majority vote of the council, under such restrictions as the council may provide.
160A‑81.1. Public comment period during regular meetings.
The council shall provide at least one period for public comment per month at a regular meeting of the council. The council may adopt reasonable rules governing the conduct of the public comment period, including, but not limited to, rules (i) fixing the maximum time allotted to each speaker, (ii) providing for the designation of spokesmen for groups of persons supporting or opposing the same positions, (iii) providing for the selection of delegates from groups of persons supporting or opposing the same positions when the number of persons wishing to attend the hearing exceeds the capacity of the hall, and (iv) providing for the maintenance of order and decorum in the conduct of the hearing. The council is not required to provide a public comment period under this section if no regular meeting is held during the month. (2005‑170, s. 3.)
Excerpted from “The Hickory Hound” blogsite as a true and accurate representation of an instructional and informational pamphlet provided to citizens relating to the City of Hickory and Hickory City Council Meetings.
“The Consent Agenda is the first portion of the City Council Agenda and includes items which are considered to be routine by the City Council. These items are enacted by one motion with no discussion unless a council Member or a citizen requests an item to be removed from the Consent Agenda for separate discussion. The Mayor will ask if anyone present wishes to remove an item from the Consent Agenda at which time anyone present can ask for that to be done. As a citizen, if you wish to have an item removed from the Consent Agenda for discussion, please just stand and voice your desire to the Mayor and Council.”
Agenda. “Memoranda of things to be done as items of business or discussion to be brought up at a meeting; a program consisting of such items.” (Black’s Law Dictionary. 6th. West Publishing Company, ST. Paul, MN. 1990.)