In Bernice Oklahoma, Citizens have no right to speak at Town Council meetings according to town lawyer


Editors note: It was in Massachusetts where I attended my first Town Council meeting with my dad. All decisions were made not by the selectmen themselves, but by the citizens in attendance. This included town budgets, where the selectmen presented the town budget, citizens made motions for budget changes, the town agreed, and there was a vote taken. “We’ve come a long way baby” and it is not good. Can you imagine living in a town of 500+ people, and being denied the chance to speak at your own Town Councl meeting!

Bernice Considering allowing citizens to speak at Bernice Council Meetings-New Policy considered

Although the Town Council of Bernice previously banned their citizens from speaking at the citizens own Monthly meeting, there appeared to be a tone of reconciliation at the Town Meeting held Monday in Bernice.

Logan & Lowry attorney David Jones told Councilors that the public has no expected right to speak at meetings of the Town Council, and informed the council that State Law, nor Bernice ordinances give citizens of Bernice a guarantee right to be heard at meetings of the Council.

Bernice Ordinance regarding agenda, and citizens right for public speaking. CLICK TO ENLARGE

After the following 30-minute discussion, the trustees agreed to consider creating a system where the public would be able to register their desire to speak on agenda items only, and be limited to 3 minutes. There would be a sign in sheet at the Council Meeting.

Also under consideration would be a “public comment” agenda item, where the public could comment on any issue, but according to David Jones, Trustees would not be allowed to comment on the citizen’s comment, because it is not an agenda item. This legal advise differs significantly different from which Jones advised the City of Grove, for when he was City Attorney for Grove the council regularly engaged citizens in comments that were not on the Council Agenda. Although the council in Grove could not take action on subjects that were no on the agenda, Jones never discouraged them to speak, and certainly proposed that the Grove Council members to “not say anything.” Council members were certainly allowed to discuss citizens concerns. It appears Mr. Jones may have been following guidance from some trustees as he presented options to control public speaking in Bernice.

The council also voted to adopt a new burn policy because Mayor Raven is against a local business burning on their property, primarily because this business brings in material from outside Bernice to burn.

The new ordinance will provide that businesses will be allowed to burn anything produced from the real property, such as leaves and debris, but burning items imported to the property are in violation of the policy and the fines start at $500.

And the Police Chief was given permission to submit his travel expenses from his future trip to “New Chiefs orientation, as well as permission to be reimbursed for expenses of stitching his police patch on his short sleeve shirts, 4 shirts at $4 each for an expense authorization of $16.

Trustees approved the following expenses at the meeting.

The video is of the discussion on if the Town Council should allow the citizens of Bernice to speak at public meetings


The video is of the discussion on if the Town Council should allow the citizens of Bernice to speak at public meetings

6 Responses to In Bernice Oklahoma, Citizens have no right to speak at Town Council meetings according to town lawyer

  1. What it actually boils down to is the City council interfering with the First ammendment to the constitution of the United states Freedom of Speech. An oath this council Swore To abide by.Small wonder this same city council Refused the PLEDGE OF ALLIEGIENCE.This Council Should step down for violating there oath of OFFICE

    March 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm

  2. On its face this sounds a bit like soft tyrrany, however I have to wonder if this is because of certain someones who demagogue and filibuster otherwise productive meetings. But if that were the case Im sure the editors coverage would reflect such. If that is the case, let it be a lesson on how abusing free speech can create unfortunate measures. Otherwise…no taxation without representation!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:46 am

  3. I thought the US and Oklahoma Constitutions applied in Bernice also.

    Tom Baines
    March 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

  4. Get rid of the Police Cheif now while you can. I have heard he is looking into other jobs around the state since he has attened C.L.E.E.T.. If the mayor was smart, he would save face by releaseing this disgrace of an officer and replace him with someone qualified and respected. Petition to get rid of the POLICE CHIEF DANIEL TRAVIS LOWE! Maybe this is another reason why the people were not allowed to raise questions in meetings. By the way, I can see Travis in the video here that is posted. Do a situp or eat a salad for petes sake! Who could you chase down if you tried.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

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