It appears that the Cobb Board of Commissioners may lack specific legal authority to enforce its rule requiring speakers at public hearings of the board to give their names, according to the county code of ordinances.
Section 1.09.08.1 states: “Persons wishing to address the Board of Commissioners in duly advertised public hearings will be heard in the order in which they come forward upon announcement of the hearing, without regard to whether the person is speaking in favor or against the matter.” There is no requirement for giving one’s name. This is relevant to the forcible removal of Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton from last week’s public hearing on a proposed ordinance allowing chickens to be kept on residential lots of less than two acres. Wise was hauled off by police officers after he refused to give his name, ignoring several requests for his ID from Chairman Tim Lee. The chairman said Wise “was not following the rules of the
commission.” However, research by Journal reporter Jon Gillooly has brought to light the specific language of the governing code cited above for public hearings. In contrast, “during the public comment portion” of a commission meeting, there is a clear requirement that a speaker give his name. Section 1.09.02 states: “All persons shall address the commission in the following manner: a. State his/her name and state address if desired (address is required only on the sign-in list and may be omitted if the speaker does not wish to receive a written response).”
If requested by the commission, the speaker “may be required to state” if he is speaking for himself or someone else; represents an organization or policy of an organization or is being paid to speak for someone else; and if he or a member of his immediate family “has a personal interest in the pending matter.” There are additional rules on public comments during commission meetings.
Then comes Section 1.09.08.1 covering public hearings. It states: “Persons wishing to address the Board of Commissioners in duly advertised public hearings will be heard in the order in which they come forward upon announcement of the hearing, without regard to whether the person is speaking in favor or against the matter. Each speaker should be allotted a maximum of three minutes.” The section details how the time limit may be lengthened or shortened by votes of the commission. But there is absolutely no requirement for a speaker to give his or her name at commission public hearings.
On that point, Robert J. Quigley, county communications director, emailed Gillooly: “It has been the board’s practice to apply the same standard to both public hearings and public comment,” and, “there are no other code sections that address public hearings.” However, he also said, “Chairman Lee has asked county legal to review our policies for public comment and public hearings and report back to the board on their findings.”
It appears that the chairman didn’t follow the commission’s firstname.lastname@example.org