Carson City supervisors decide against rules limiting public comment
Appeal Staff Writer
City supervisors opted Thursday not to adopt rules of conduct for people speaking at their meetings.
Exchanges between city officials and two Reno-based activists occasionally became heated over the proposal that would have allowed the mayor or whoever conducts supervisors’ meetings to restrict comments that are “irrelevant, repetitious, slanderous, offensive, inflammatory, redundant, irrational or amounting to personal attacks.”
People who “willfully disrupt a meeting so that orderly conduct is made impractical may be removed from the meeting,” it also said.
Supervisor Richard Staub prompted the final action when asked whether it would be better to just let things remain the same because the Nevada open meeting law allows for some limitations and restrictions. The supervisors were preparing to approve the rules up to that point.
“I don’t see why we have to do anything,” Staub said.
Mayor Marv Teixeira said after the meeting that the law already allows him to keep meetings businesslike.
“I’m simply following (Nevada’s) Open Meeting Law,” Teixeira said. “I don’t need a policy. I can ask them to leave.”
During the meeting, he said he can already handle disruptive influences.
“I’ll take you on,” Teixeira said as he pointed at one of the activists. He then turned and pointed at the other and said, “And I’ll take you on.”
Guy Felton, director of the Reno-based Nevada Ombudsman Project, earlier read correspondence he sent to the city and occasionally raised his voice for effect. He threatened to file suit against the city if the action was taken.
“To emasculate free speech is to emasculate openness in government. To emasculate openness in government is to effectively kill democracy,” Felton said.
“Any policy adopted by the board of supervisors that treats one or more (attorney generals’) opinions as having force of law will amount to fraud,” he read from a letter he sent earlier this week to District Attorney Noel Waters.
Felton filed a complaint in 2005 with the attorney general’s office after being thrown out of a Washoe County Commission meeting last July after calling an elected official a “humbug.” During another meeting he called the commissioners “corrupt public officials.”
The city uses the Open Meeting Law Manual written by the attorney general’s office.
Felton started speaking at Carson City Supervisors meetings in July.
Sam Dehné, a retired airline pilot who sometimes sings his comments and plays a guitar as accompaniment, jumped up from his seat at one point and said to the mayor, “you made a threat to me.”
He has filed three complaints with the state attorney general about the supervisors since starting to speak at the meetings in June.
“Does the open meeting law have more power than the U.S. Constitution?” Dehné asked.
The attorney general recommends rules be on municipal agendas. However, nothing has happened because some communities, including Carson City, haven’t done so, according to the state.
Felton also sent correspondence early in the week to Sheriff Ken Furlong that asked a “hypothetical question:” What would happen if Felton wanted Mayor Marv Teixeira arrested for “crimes against the Constitution of the United States.
“Would you assist me or resist me?” Felton asked.
“No,” he wouldn’t arrest the mayor for a possible violation of open meeting law, Furlong said after the meeting.
Felton’s accusation would have been a civil matter. He could have filed a report with the department for review, however, Furlong said.
In other business, the supervisors:
• Approved payment of $136,700 for workshops, conceptual design, and special-use permit work for the planned joint-use recreation center to be located on the Western Nevada Community College campus.
• Continued discounts to local nonprofit organizations that provide residents with an array of plays, concerts and other performances for use of the Community Center Theater.
• Named Maxine Nietz to the Carson City Library Board of Trustees. She is a computer consultant and event planner, and her term ends in June 2009.
• Adopted new sign regulations for the city’s auto dealerships.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.