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Can township trustees eliminate public comment on specific issues during board meetings?

Generally, a township does not have the authority to limit the subjects that may be addressed during public comment. In certain narrow circumstances, however, a township does have the authority to restrict what is said during public comment. 

The Michigan Opening Meetings Act (OMA), MCL 15.261 et. seq., governs how a township is to conduct meetings, and requires that a public comment period be provided for citizens to express their views to the township board. This right to public comment, however, may have limitations as imposed under MCL 15.263(1). MCL 15.263(1) permits the township board to “establish reasonable rules and regulations in order to minimize the possibility of disrupting the meeting.” This includes rules relating to how a person may address a public body during public comment. MCL 15.263(5).

Typically, these rules include limiting the amount of time available to each citizen for public comment, or prescribing the time(s) during a meeting where public comment will be held. Restrictions on what may be said, however, are subject to special limitations. Previously, the Attorney General has specifically stated that a township may “adopt a rule which prohibits a person from using the board’s and public’s time to make a personal attack upon an individual.” OAG, 1977-1978, No. 5332, p 4 (July 13, 1978).

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