Move to Curb Comments Dies in Committee

WINNSBORO – An attempt to regulate what topics the public addressed during the second public comment portion of County Council meetings, also known as “public presentations,” failed to get out of the Administration and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday evening.

Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) brought the matter up during Council’s March 16 meeting, asking Council to consider closing the floor to public comment that strayed from the County’s turf, or that deviated into unsubstantiated and personal verbal attacks against elected officials serving on other public bodies. Marcharia told The Voice after the March 16 meeting that he was thinking specifically of the recent request made to Council by Gregrey Ginyard, Mayor of Jenkinsville, for $50,000 in matching grant funds for the completion of a sidewalk in the Western Fairfield town. Marcharia noted that public opposition to Ginyard’s request was accompanied by verbal attacks against Ginyard in his role as president of the Jenkinsville Water Company, with those attacks insinuating that Ginyard had mishandled or misappropriated water company funds.

Council agreed on March 23 to send the matter to committee, where it failed to garner a motion from members Marion Robinson, Mary Lynn Kinley or Carolyn Robinson.

“At the beginning, I agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Marcharia,” Kinley said Tuesday, “and then I had a citizen write to me (to say) that we saw people and they do not. I kind of feel like maybe these folks do not get the voice that we have.”

Marion Robinson said he would like to be assured by citizens bringing matters outside the County Council’s purview that they first took their concerns to the body with which they have the complaint before airing it out in Council chambers. Kinley agreed.

“That would make me feel better if I knew that they did that,” she said. “If we do our part then they need to do theirs.”

The Committee recommended some technical changes to the bylaws covering public comment, moving items 11 (All comments should be addressed to the Chairman and not individual members of Council), 12 (Council may not respond or engage in dialogue with the speaker) and 13 (Council members wishing to respond may do so during County Council Time) from the rules governing the first public comment segment and into the rules governing the second.

The Committee also recommended adding to the rules for the second public comment segment “Subject matter shall be limited to that which relates to, is associated with or has some immediate, future or long-term effect on Fairfield County.”

The recommendations will be taken up by the full Council during their April 27 meeting.


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