Earlier this year, the Attorney General’s Public Access Counsel (PAC), in an informal opinion, confirmed that enforcing a two-minute public comment rule does not violate the Open Meetings Act (OMA).
In January 2018, the PAC received a request for review from two individuals affiliated with the Edgar County Watchdogs challenging the Board of Education of Jasper County Community Unit School District No. 1’s enforcement of its two-minute rule. The District has a policy allowing public comment during board meetings for up to two minutes per commentator, unless advanced notice is given, in which case the commentator is given up to five minutes to speak. In this case, the challengers claimed that they were cut off and didn’t have sufficient time to finish their public comment.
In response, the District provided the PAC with its established and recorded rules for public comment as well as a detailed written answer. The District explained that it implemented the two-minute rule to conserve time, which is a significant government interest. The PAC, finding that the two-minute rule was not a violation of OMA, stated that the rule promotes orderly and efficient meetings and encourages speakers to organize their comments before addressing the board on the topic of their choosing.
The requester also challenged the ability of a member of the public to address the board for five minutes if advance notice is provided. The PAC, however, declined to review that rule because the requester was not improperly restricted from commenting based on the District’s enforcement of that rule.