Chicken hearing handcuffing may have been out of Commission’s power
by Don McKee
Columnist
January 28, 2013 12:16 AM | 1197 views | 10 10 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
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Ed. note: This column has been modified to clarify the statement made by Cobb County Communications Director Rober Quigley.

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 rules.

dmckee9613@aol.com
Comments
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Fair & Balanced
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February 08, 2013
Ok, if I want to provide comment at a Cobb public hearing, but don't live in Cobb, can I make comments without stating my name and/or address?

Would it matter to other Cobb voters that I wasn't a resident of Cobb County to offer my opinion for "your" benefit?

I see that as the only reason for requiring a name and address so that people who live in the same County are those addressing their political representatives of the County in which they reside.

misterbill
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January 28, 2013
Don't know much about Lee, but almost all of the little I know is quite unfavorable. He should try to make himself look better. Maybe he should support IMAGE instead of the COC. Maybe he could lunch with a man in the street for a change.

Oh well his problem - I just wish Byrne got re-elected.
anonymous
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January 28, 2013
Thanks Mr McKee for not letting this "thug government" episode get swept under the carpet. Tim Lee and the Cobb County police played out a scene straight from Russia or Chicago. Sickening.

Tim Lee can try to squirm his way out of the unwarranted heavy handedness by blaming it on the police. But, any Chairman worth his salt would have had the gonads to stop the heavy handedness...right then and right there.

The second term of the Obama administration has now begun in Cobb County, folks.
Michel Phillips
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January 28, 2013
I don't think it even matters what the rules say. The First Amendment says we have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. The First Amendment does not make that right contingent on giving your name. A county commission has no power to limit our First Amendment rights.
Joseph Pond
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January 28, 2013
I disagree. Section 1.09.02 makes it very clear that "All persons shall address the commission in the following manner: a. State his/her name", not just people address the commission during certain times. ALL is all.

The real crime is that the Rules Of Procedure are not available at the Meetings, and only breezed over in a PDF in the corner of the County Clerk's webpage. Even the PDF does does address stating your name. We need the county procedures to be clear, and open to the public.
Devlin Adams
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January 29, 2013
Mr.Pond, did you not read Mr. McKee's column? Public hearings are not under the same constictions as commission meetings. There are separate rules, and the requirement to identify yourself is not one of those rules.
Pat H
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January 28, 2013
They could have and should have just shut off the microphone.

However, the young man was totally out of line - wonder whether he participated in Occupy Atlanta.
Michel Phillips
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January 28, 2013
I was there. The young man was NOT out of line. He was speaking respectfully and calmly, taking his turn in the time allotted to him during the public comments part of the meeting.
Break?
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January 28, 2013
Give it a break, Don. When you get on a kick, those you are after are "darned if they do and darned if they don't."

And, attention Headline Writers: The headline doesn't seem to fit the very confusing column Mr. McKee wrote. That conflict seems to be a common occurrence on many local headlines.
Ron McClellan
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January 28, 2013
The Headline seems perfectly appropriate for the situation being reported. A guy got handcuffed . . .during a hearing relative to chickens . . .and Commissioner Lee didn't have the authority to handle that situation in the manner it was handled . . .what's not to understand about the title?

Mr. Wise was kinda foolish, but not "Haul him off in handcuffs" foolish, Geez. We have a commission who largely doesn't recognize that keeping chickens is a liberty issue, handcuffing people for not supplying their names. A note to Commissioner Lee: This is the U.S.A. not 1930's Germany.
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