At their May 24, 2016, meeting, the members of the budget committee discussed whether to allow public comment at their meetings. There was broad agreement that the public should be given the opportunity to give input at meetings. The question was whether to allow it during the meeting on relevant topics before the committee votes, or to restrict it to after all votes, immediately before adjournment.
Member Tyler Phillips, Sr., said that it was important to move on from the sense of “Stalinesque” muffling of the public, a perception that he said some had last year when the selectmen voted to not allow public input at their meetings.
Steve Brinser, vice-chairman of the committee, and newly elected member John Libby favored allowing public comment in context after discussion of a particular subject, before a vote.
Bob Theve, newly re-elected to another term, expressed his belief that the public could use the public input to disrupt the meetings. “Do you all want to be here until 3 o’clock in the morning?” He asked.
Carolyn Sundquist, the selectmen’s representative to the budget committee, reminded the other members that while the meetings are open and the public has a right to attend, “they do not have a right to speak.”
The committee voted to allow public comment at the end of meetings, after all votes. Chairman Carla Lootens then stated that they could always revisit the issue if they wanted, but she felt better have an official policy in place.