The Franklin County Commission will allow comments from the public at its regular meetings with the exception of those related to the county municipal court and any pending litigation against the county.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer announced the policy clarification at the start of Tuesday’s regular meeting after he apologized to Ron Keeven for incorrectly identifying him last week as one of the plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit against the county challenging its new municipal court.
“I’ve been advised by legal counsel and law enforcement to change direction in the way we handle public comments,” Griesheimer said. “We will open up comments on agenda items, but there will be no comments on anything related to the lawsuit or the municipal court.”
The commission has changed its policy on allowing comments from citizens several times over the past year in the wake of several lawsuits and stepped up criticism of the commission by a few regular critics.
The commission has in the past also restricted comments from those running for public office.
Saying public discourse at commission meetings had reached a new low, Griesheimer in May said public comments would be limited to agenda items. In early June, the commission announced it was temporarily halting all public comments until it devised a policy which it said would mirror that of school boards.
Later that month, the commission adopted a detailed policy that allowed members of the public to comment on commission orders or resolutions to be acted on during that meeting. The policy provided that members of the public also could request items be placed on an agenda and outlined a procedure for that process.
Three weeks later, the commission suspended the policy after one of the regular commission critics complained that the commission had violated the policy.
Last week Griesheimer accused the individuals who filed a lawsuit against the commission challenging its new municipal court of being “vindictive.” He mentioned Keeven, a regular critic and former candidate for the commission, as being one of those behind the suit. Keeven is not listed as a plaintiff in that case.
“I do apologize to Ron for that,” Griesheimer said in opening Tuesday’s meeting.
There has been increased security at recent commission meetings.