Shrewsbury selectmen consider developing public comment policy

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A sign in downtown Marlborough asks residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)
Shrewsbury’s Town Hall sits off Maple St. in town. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – The Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen is considering developing a public comment policy for its meetings.

The matter was on the Board’s agenda for its May 10 meeting at the request of Selectman Beth Casavant, who had specifically asked for a discussion on a possible policy for public comment in meetings that don’t involve a public hearing.

“I know it’s something that the school committee has a policy on, and I know that also other boards of selectmen and select boards have this policy,” she said.

Casavant said policies from Sterling and Avon in particular were “a good model” and could be a place to start in Shrewsbury.

The Board of Selectmen in Avon adopted its policy in 2018. That policy calls for a prescribed time to be set aside at each selectmen meeting for an individual or group to address the board.

It prohibits speakers from voicing complaints about town personnel or leveling charges against town personnel in open session.

It also limits speakers to five minutes, with the chair holding the right to discontinue any individual or group from public participation if they are in violation of the policy.

Casavant said that any policy developed should be “well-regulated” to ensure that there are boundaries.

“I think that, not to put words in your mouth, when we talk about having boundaries, I think we’re just trying to make sure that the order of business can still proceed,” said Selectman Theresa Flynn.

“Correct,” Casavant said. “Like, it can’t go on for two hours.”

Casavant asked if the board staff and the town manager’s office could draft a policy that the selectmen could discuss at a future meeting.

The agenda for the Selectmen’s meeting set for Tuesday of this week, indeed, now includes an item to review and act on the adoption of a public comment policy.

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