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Manlius Town Board lifts ban on public comment

Adopted rules end ban, but remove comment period from agenda

Marcia Novek, of Manlius, speaks to the Manlius Town Board regarding their decision to ban public comment.

Marcia Novek, of Manlius, speaks to the Manlius Town Board regarding their decision to ban public comment. Photo by Amanda Seef.

— New rules of decorum for Manlius Town Board meetings were unanimously adopted at the regular board meeting Wednesday, Jan. 25.

The adopted rules end the ban on public comment at town board meetings. The ban was enacted last year by supervisor Ed Theobald, who said that members of the community and of the town board were concerned with the content of messages being delivered at the board meetings.

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Manlius Rules of Decorum

The Manlius Town Board voted unanimously in September to suspend public comment from the meeting agenda for 30 days. During that time, Theobald said he would review the purpose of a public comment period.

His findings, he said, were that public comment is not a required part of town board agendas. Theobald has worked with the board to tweak the rules of decorum for the public meetings. Those were adopted unanimously at Wednesday’s meeting.

The new rules of decorum will take the public comment section off the agenda for each meeting, held every other Wednesday. Should community members wish to discuss a topic at the town board meetings, they must now contact the town clerk before the end of business Tuesday with their topic. Topics will be screened by the supervisor's office to see if they meet certain criteria: the matter must be of concern to the town board where they may take action, an issue or concern related to town operations, or an issue or concern related to town property or infrastructure.

Three residents spoke against the town's decision Wednesday night.

“I feel that no input has been allowed from the town of Manlius citizens,” Marcia Novek said. “All of us have different ways to communication. There should be a way to solve our issues.”

Her husband, Joe Novek, suggested the town come to an agreement with residents who wish to speak. He has come to the board on a number of occasions to speak about various issues.

"Our only recourse over the last 10 years has been to address these matters at a public board meeting," Novek said.

The rules also limits resident’s comments to three minutes, instead of five.

Theobald said he can still recognize members of the audience at each board meeting, should they wish to discuss a matter that the board had discussed at that meeting.

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