The Glendora City Council deliberated over the enforcement of an obscure city resolution that resurfaced when Mayor Doug Tessitor requested adding restrictions to the public comment forums of the city’s open meetings.
Tessitor introduced adding “standards of decorum” that mirrored the City of Alhambra’s council agenda, which prohibited comments deemed “personal, impertinent or slanderous.”
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Tessitor cited a 2003 city resolution similar to Alhambra’s policy.
The resolution allows the public to question policy or service of the city or any “act of omission by the city council,” however the speaker does not have the right to “make slanderous or impertinent, obscene or personal remarks against any council member or city employee or private citizen.” Comments beyond “the jurisdiction of the city council” are also restricted, according to the resolution. Those who continue to violate the policy may be barred from the chambers by the presiding officer.
“I think the request I would make…would be merely to add that language to our published agenda so that all members of the public, without having to go through the city ordinances, would be aware of those particular restrictions which are already codified,” said Tessitor.
The topic sparked claims that adding restrictions to public comments overstepped the boundaries of the First Amendment.
The speakers who spoke out against the resolution were familiar faces at the podium.
Glendora resident Mark Smith said council members should not be allowed to hit “the mute button” whenever they pleased.
“Officials are not allowed to censor comments, it’s the public’s right under the First Amendment to say whatever they want to say,” said Smith.
Sharon Green chastised what she called the council’s “rude and contemptuous actions.”
“I have seen what I am seeing right now, [the mayor] looks at the wall and the ceiling while I am speaking,” said Green.
Ed Brubaker, known for his accusations against the mayor and Mayor Pro Tem Gene Murabito, lashed out against what he called “a flimsy attempt to stop us from talking.”
“You can’t censor me,” said Brubaker. “That’s my civil rights. If you don’t like it, I don’t care.”
Former mayor John Harrold told Tessitor to “lighten up,” adding that the mayor’s seat can “get very hot. “
However, questions of how and when to enforce the city’s policy became a topic of concern among council members.
“My concern is if we decide to issue warnings and they continue to make these comments, which I expect them to, then we are almost obligated to issue the next step, which would be some kind of disciplinary action,” said Murabito. “That’s what they want. I’m not sure I want to reward that type of action.”
Murabito added that the harsh criticisms were “difficult to endure,” but part of the job.
“As elected officials, I think we are expected to have thicker skin and a higher level of pain thresholds,” said Murabito. “But I’m not sure if the right action is to bite our lips and move on.”
Councilmember Karen Davis said she believed the resolution language was sufficient enough and that enforcing the policy would only apply to “extreme cases,” which she said she has yet to see in the council chambers.
“We sit up here to hear the people, what the people have to say is of their choosing,” said Davis. “But …to refrain them from having that opportunity would not be of any benefit.”
Davis suggested taking a recess during council meetings in the case a speaker becomes overly disruptive.
“There are ways to solve it this situation, but I don’t think it’s wise to bury it in the dusty tomes of city regulations and forget about it,” said Tessitor.
No action was taken following the discussion, although Tessitor requested that the resolution be posted where it may be easily observed by the public.