If an agency allows for public comment, the participant should follow the rules of that agency concerning comments. The agency can establish local rules regarding participation, as long as the citizen has a reasonable opportunity to comment. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 93-052.
Under both Acts, the body must give members of the public an opportunity to comment before or during the body's discussion or consideration of the agenda item. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11125.7(a) (Bagley-Keene Act); 54954.3(a) (Brown Act). Under the Brown Act, the public must be given an opportunity to comment on any matter within the subject matter jurisdiction of the body, in addition to agenda items. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54954.3(a). Presumably, the body will invite public comment at the appropriate time, but if not, the participant could probably interrupt the meeting and request an opportunity to speak on the particular item, or on any matter within the subject matter of the legislative body.
No provision in the Open Meetings Law addresses this issue. Unruly or indecorous conduct of the person seeking admittance is not advisable, since this will only give the public body legitimate grounds for exclusion.
Georgia county commissions and city councils and like bodies, e.g., school boards, typically have rules affording a limited right of public comment at meetings. See, e.g., Cardinale v. City of Atlanta, 290 Ga. 521, 522, 722 S.E.2d 732, 734 (2012) (noting the existence of rules governing public comment at Atlanta city council meetings). The state’s Open Meetings Act does not address the issue of public comment.
The Open Meeting Law does not provide for any particular method for asserting a right to comment. Individuals should be able to assert a right to comment by providing written notice prior to the meeting or by standing and asking for the opportunity to give public comment. It would also be prudent to ask that the request for comment be included in the meeting minutes.
There is no right to comment under the Open Meetings Act. Some public agencies allow public comment during designated portions of public meetings, and some of those agencies require members of the public to sign in or otherwise give advance notice of their desire to make comments. A person wishing to comment at a public meeting may consider contacting the public agency in advance to determine its policy.
If the right to participate is denied, an action can be brought in district court to set aside the agency's decision. The action must be brought within 30 days. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-114. A court may also award prospective relief ordering the agency to accept public comments.
According to the Oklahoma attorney general, participants do not have a right to comment: Neither the Open Meeting Act nor “the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides an opportunity for citizens to express their views on issues being considered by a public body, but a public body may voluntarily choose to allow for such comments.” 2002 OK AG 26; see also 1998 OK AG 45; 2004 OK AG 44.
As stated above, the Open Meetings Act does not actually provide the public a right to participate or comment at public meetings. Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. JC-0169 (2000). Typically, the member of the public shows up at the meeting, fills out a card indicating they wish to address the body, and then is called upon when the comments section of the meeting is reached. Id. Topics are usually entirely at the discretion of the speaker. Id.
Some boards allow public comment at the start of the meeting while others place it as the final agenda item. Some boards allow public comment whenever anyone present has something to add to the discussion. The chair of the board may establish reasonable rules to maintain order and reasonable limitations on the amount of time for each speaker are not unusual or improper.
A participant in a meeting subject to the Act may request to speak before the session begins. If a person is not permitted to comment at a meeting that is subject to the Act, while others are allowed to speak, with no comments by the public are permitted, the governing body may be in violation of the act and subject to a suit for declaratory indoor injunctive relief. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-6.