Lyon school board public comment change frustrates some

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The Lyon County School Board on June 27 approved revisions to its policy governing board meeting procedures, a topic producing opposition from community members who have voiced discontent with its public comment format.

The vote eliminates a period of public comment after each agenda item listed in the second alternative of Robert’s Rules of Orders for meetings. The board allowed public comment as listed in the first alternative, which calls for public comment to take place during the beginning and end of meetings.

The turnout on the policy item filled the Silver Stage Elementary and Middle School’s multipurpose room beyond capacity, so the crowd was moved to the campus cafeteria for business, spokeswoman Erika Cowger told the Appeal.

Those who came were opposed to the board’s approval of revisions to Policy BDD regarding board meeting procedures, notice and agenda except for one in attendance. The policy was in its second and final reading after Trustee Tom Hendrix requested modifications during the April meeting to accept public comment through electronic submission despite the practice having been in place at least several months at board President Phil Cowee’s request.

According to supporting documents, Hendrix requested the practice to be decided by a majority of the board rather than Cowee making the determination unilaterally.

Nevada Revised Statute 241.020(2)(d)(3), regarding Nevada’s Open Meeting Law and multiple periods of public comment, mandates that public bodies adopt one of two alternative public comment agenda procedures. The first is bodies can choose to agendize a public comment period before action items are heard and later it must hear another time of public comment before adjourning the meeting. The second choice is to include multiple options of public comment that must be heard after discussion of each agenda action item but before the public body takes action.

Regardless of which choice the body accepts, the voting entity must allow the public to comment on any matter within its jurisdiction or advisory power, including items not specifically listed on the agenda for action.

A memo included in Tuesday’s board documents states Cowee and board clerk Bridget Peterson proposed additional changes to Policy BDD and Robert’s Rules of Order dictating how meetings are run. The 2023 legislative session also produced Assembly Bill 65, requiring an addition to a time limit to act on items of 11:59 p.m. the day of board meetings, and changes were added to LCSD’s policy.

Assemblyman Ken Gray, a resident of Dayton representing Douglas and Lyon counties, expressed his concerns during the public comment portion for Policy BDD.

“You work for us, and what you are doing is effectively silencing us,” Gray said. “We are no longer allowed to participate by Zoom. We are no longer submitting written comment for reading into the record. There are tools at your disposal.”

In a follow-up with the Appeal, Gray, a former Lyon County commissioner, said more order was needed to maintain control and decorum with meetings lasting as long as five or six hours at times.

“They just don’t know how to run a meeting,” he said. “You’ll see it run quicker if you stay to the format.”

An initial motion to deny changes to public comment during the board’s meeting failed. An alternate motion to allow public comment in the first alternative of Robert’s Rules of Order passed 4-3.


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