Holmes Beach commission to explore public comment rules

Depending on the matter being discussed at a Holmes Beach commission meeting, a citizen wishing to speak sometimes may hold his or her tongue on any given subject for hours.

Public comment is typically afforded to citizens at open meetings, but the Florida Legislature earlier this year made it a requirement for cities and counties to establish official public comment policies through an ordinance or resolution.

Holmes Beach typically opens public comment at the end of a meeting, with the exception of a public hearing. Often decisions are made before the public speaks, although agenda items are usually discussed at prior work sessions or other regular meetings.

With the new law taking effect, commissioners now must establish a policy regarding public comment — and it must include taking public comment before voting on an agenda item.

City attorney Patricia Petruff, at a Sept. 26 work session, said the requirement to take comment before a vote doesn’t necessarily mean it has to take place at the meeting at which the vote is taken.

“For instance, we could have public comment on an agenda item at a work session and then wouldn’t have to at the regular meeting,” said Petruff. “The important thing is to have a policy that then presumes you are following the law. If not, you arguably put yourself at risk if the public challenges that they weren’t provided an opportunity to speak.”

Petruff said commissioners could do it as they wished, as long as the requirements of setting a policy and conducing public comment before a vote are met.

“You can do it at the beginning of a meeting or have public comment item by item,” she said. “That’s a choice you have to make. The law just requires a formal policy.”

Commissioner Pat Morton suggested having public comment item by item and Commissioner Judy Titsworth agreed.

“I know when I was sitting out there in the gallery waiting until the end of the meeting, I would get antsy because I wanted to speak so bad,” she said. “It would make it better to do it topic by topic.”

Commission Chair Jean Peelen disagreed, expressing concern for interrupting the flow of the meeting. She suggested having public comment at work sessions, and said the city needed to do a better job communicating the issues to the public.

However, she was willing to try a variety of ways to see what worked best and was agreeable to start with public comment by agenda item.

Petruff said there was time before the city had to establish policy and encouraged experimentation.

In other matters, Mayor Carmel Monti said the 4-cent gas tax was updated and Holmes Beach would receive more funding next year. Monti said Holmes Beach’s share in the gas tax was 1.35 percent and would increase to 1.75 percent. He said the revenue generated would increase from $83,000 a year to $106,000.

Monti also said technology updates to the city hall chambers would begin soon. The city is installing computers for commissioners and monitors for gallery members to view agendas and other documents during meetings.

It’s an attempt to move the city in a greener direction, Monti said.

In other matters, Police Chief Bill Tokajer announced his department received an $18,000 West Coast Inland Navigational District grant to purchase a new boat motor for the department’s patrol vessel.

The police department also is expecting to receive $9,000 in equipment, including a laser speed-measurement device and moving radar system for “proactive activities of our officers during the Click it or Ticket Campaign.”

Additionally, the department will receive two more moving radar systems valued at $7,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Florida Law Enforcement Liaison Program.




City of Bradenton




PRIOR TO COUNCIL MEETING: Agenda will be prepared and available to the public by 5:00 p.m. of the Friday preceding the Council meeting. Appointments on the agenda, all items from Department Heads, and all other interested parties must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday preceding the Council meeting. Anyone wishing to be placed on the agenda must contact Tim McCann, Public Information Officer for the City of Bradenton, at City Hall by phone 941-932-9497 or email: tim.mccann@cityofbradenton.com and give their name, business name (if applicable), whether they are resident taxpayers of the City and their business before Council. Appearances before Council will be scheduled per the Mayor or Council person in charge of the meeting. NOTE: The Mayor may ask a city department to look into the issue prior to the meeting to see if the issue can be resolved. If the Mayor or Councilperson in charge of the meeting feels the request is justified, they will instruct the City Clerk as to how much time to allow on the agenda. Be advised that, in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, persons needing a reasonable accommodation to participate in this proceeding should contact the City Clerk & Treasurer of the City of Bradenton at 101 Old Main Street, Bradenton, Florida 34205, telephone (941) 932-9445, not later than seven (7) days prior to the proceeding.


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