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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Although the law does not include specific sanctions, a person commenting in a municipal governmental meeting without permission may be asked to withdraw from the meeting and may be escorted out by a constable if he or she refuses to leave. G.L. c. 39, § 23C.
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.
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.
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)).
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.