Liberty Township trustees on Jan. 19 made no changes during an annual review of citizen comment rules approved last May.

Liberty Township trustees on Jan. 19 made no changes during an annual review of citizen comment rules approved last May.

Trustee Curt Sybert and township administrator Dave Anderson developed the rules after a meeting in April 2009 that lasted more than four hours. That meeting included a debate over Powell's contention that then-trustee Peggy Guzzo's actions had breached a cooperative economic development agreement between the two entities. Also at the meeting, Liberty fiscal officer Mark Gerber insisted that Guzzo pay for legal fees stemming from Powell's complaint.

Sybert said at the time guidelines were needed to prevent discussions between trustees and audience members from erupting into shouting matches.

The rules cover public participation at meetings and at hearings. The guidelines in both instances require people addressing the board to sign a roster and state their names and addresses.

Individual speakers are limited to five minutes, unless the trustee chairman grants more time. The overall public participation period at meetings is limited to 30 minutes for items not on the trustees' agenda. For comments regarding issues on the agenda, public participation is limited to 15 minutes.

At public hearings, required for some zoning issues, the person seeking the zoning change or variance may make a presentation to the board not exceeding 20 minutes. People opposing the issue may have 20 minutes, but they are asked to have a spokesperson address their concerns. Otherwise, individuals get five minutes each to comment.

The township's rules for citizen comments state speakers must give their names and addresses, must "address only the board of trustees," may not repeat what speakers preceding them have said, are not to argue with the "trustees, staff, press or those in the audience," and must not engage in "political speeches or grandstanding."

ThisWeek asked Sybert for a definition of "political speeches or grandstanding."

"Citizen comments are not necessarily an exchange of ideas. It's notifying the trustees of an issue," Sybert said.

He said one example of grandstanding would be if a trustee planted someone in the audience to praise that trustee.

"Everybody knows what grandstanding is and this board can decide," Sybert said.

The policy also allows citizen comments about items on the trustees' agenda. The board "shall permit citizen participation for items on the agenda immediately after presentation of the item by staff but prior to the board discussion regarding the item," the policy states.

Sybert said he's never seen a governing body "run their citizen comment session the way it has been" at the township meetings. He said it should not be a question-and-answer time between the speakers and the trustees.

Resident Jim Cirigliano, who attended the meeting, said trustees often forget to offer citizens the opportunity to comment on items on the agenda.

Sybert said the trustees would be mindful of that.