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E. Are there sanctions for unapproved comment?

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  • Alaska

    The Open Meetings Act does not address a right to comment. Rights afforded by local government bodies are governed by the rules of those bodies, or the state municipal code statutes concerning local government.

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  • Arizona

    Arizona’s OML does contain any sanctions for unapproved comment.

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  • Arkansas

    An agency or other entity allowing public comment can conduct its meetings “in an orderly manner” and “be free from unwarranted interference in the conduct of its affairs.” Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 77-86. See also Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 93-052. The agency can, therefore, adopt rules that would sanction a person who disrupts a meeting.

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  • California

    Comments by members of the public do not need to be approved under either Act. Under the Brown Act, if a meeting is willfully interrupted by a group of persons, the body may order the room cleared and continue in session if order cannot be restored by removing the individuals. Cal. Gov't Code § 54957.9. In such a situation, the body can only consider items on the agenda, and representatives of the press or other news media, except those participating in the disturbance, must be allowed to attend. Id. The body may readmit individuals who did not willfully disturb the orderly conduct of the meeting. Id.

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  • Colorado

    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.

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  • Connecticut

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Delaware

    Not addressed.

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Georgia

    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.

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  • Hawaii

    A decision made in violation of the Sunshine Law is voidable "upon proof of violation," through suit commenced within 90 days of the contested action. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-11.

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  • Idaho

    There are no sanctions for unapproved comments in the Open Meeting Law. Disruptive or disorderly conduct would subject the person involved in such conduct to removal from the meeting, however, and possible arrest under general criminal statutes dealing with such conduct.

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  • Illinois

    Disruptive behavior may result in expulsion from a meeting, or even arrest, depending on the precise nature of the behavior.

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  • Indiana

    Because there is no right to comment, presumably a public agency could order a person removed from the meeting.

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  • Kansas

    There is no statutory right to comment.

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  • Kentucky

    The Open Meetings Act does not deal with public comments at public meetings.  Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.840 provides that public agencies may condition attendance by members of the public as “required for the maintenance of order.”

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  • Louisiana

    As noted above, the Open Meeting Law now provides for removal of persons who "wilfully disrupt" a meeting and by doing so "seriously compromise" the orderly conduct of the meeting.

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  • Maine

    Not specifically.  In extreme circumstances, public bodies have contacted law enforcement to remove a disruptive individual.

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  • Montana

    Some public bodies have attempted to impose sanctions for "out of order" comments, including barring the speaker from future participation. The Montana Supreme Court has not addressed whether such sanctions are permissible.

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  • Nevada

    If a person willfully disrupts a meeting to the extent that its orderly conduct is made impractical, the person may be removed from the meeting. NRS 241.030(3)(b).

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  • New Jersey

    No specific sanctions are contained in the Open Public Meetings Act.

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  • North Carolina

    There is no provision in the Open Meetings Law. Each statute providing a right of public comment has its own provisions. See Section V.A. above.

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  • Ohio

    There is no statutory or case law addressing this issue (not applicable).

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  • Oklahoma

    This issue was not addressed in the attorney general opinion. However, a public body cannot allow comment on items not listed on the agenda if the agenda states the public comments are limited to agenda items. 2002 OK AG 26.

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  • Oregon

    Yes, potential removal and arrest for disruption.

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  • Rhode Island

    No specific provision.

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  • South Dakota

    There are no special sanctions.

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  • Tennessee

    Removal from meeting.

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  • Texas

    The governmental body may adopt reasonable rules consistent with relevant provisions of law allowing them to do so. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. JC-0169 (2000). (citing Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. H-188 (1973); Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. LO-96-111 (1996)).  However, if the governmental body allows comments it must allow them in an even-handed fashion and may not discriminate among views seeking expression. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. LO-96-111 (1996)).

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  • Vermont

    Not addressed.

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  • West Virginia

    If a person is not permitted to comment, or if no comments of members of the public are permitted, the governing body may be in violation of the statute and subject to a suit for declaratory and or injunctive relief. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-6.

    The Act provides that "this article does not prohibit the removal from a meeting of any member of the public who is disrupting the meeting to the extent that orderly conduct of the meeting is compromised." Of course, the power to remove a member of the public from a meeting on the basis of “disruptive” conduct may not be exercised arbitrarily.

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