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SUPERVISORS FLETCHER & VARGAS WORK TO PREVENT DISRUPTIVE & INAPPROPRIATE CONDUCT AT COUNTY MEETINGS, SUPERVISORS TO VOTE ON NEW PROCEDURES AT WEDNESDAY SPECIAL MEETING

11/09/21

 

Chair Nathan Fletcher and Vice Chair Nora Vargas are working to strengthen the procedures at Board of Supervisors meetings to ensure they are equitable, non-disruptive to county business and protect free speech; this action comes after some members of the public last week created a hostile work environment for County staff when they used racist, disrespectful and threatening language during the meeting.  

Chair Fletcher has called for a special virtual meeting of the Board of Supervisors for Weds., Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. to challenge the use of hate speech and address the unacceptable behavior that has become commonplace at recent meetings. The Board will vote on a policy Chair Fletcher and Vice Chair Vargas authored which will: 1.) Adopt a Code of Civil Discourse developed by the National Conflict Resolution Center as an aspirational goal for all meetings; 2.) Adopt more stringent positions against harassment and abuse; 3.) Provide more discretion to the board on the amount of time allotted to public speakers, and 4.) enact other procedural changes to allow public participation in the effective execution of the governing process.     

“Hate speech and creating a hostile work environment for County staff will not be tolerated. The changes to our Board of Supervisors Rules and Procedures we have proposed are meant to curb the vulgar, racist and profane behavior that has occurred recently during the public comment portion of our meetings,” said Chair Fletcher. “The actions of some are preventing good people who truly want to participate in their government from showing up to give their testimony and that must change.”    

“Hate speech and racism have no place in our public institutions. Our democracy is stronger when divergent voices and viewpoints are part of our discourse. I have fought for many years so that our community has a voice in our county. However, public comment at our meetings has become more vile and aggressive and I will not be a bystander to anti-black, racist, hate speech,” said Vice Chair Vargas. “Our employees need to feel safe to do their jobs free of harassment. I am committed to fighting for equity and institutional change and it is our responsibility to bring back decency, kindness and respect to civil discourse.” 

The changes being voted during the special Board of Supervisors Meeting are:

  • Adopt more stringent positions against harassment and abuse, which includes reading a statement on the County’s policy regarding discrimination and harassment into the record during the meeting.

  • Prohibit disruptive conduct, such as uttering loud or threatening language, whistling, clapping, stamping of feet, speaking over or interrupting the recognized speaker, or other disruptive acts.

  • Adopt a Code of Civil Discourse developed by the National Conflict Resolution Center as an aspirational goal for all meetings.

  • Create new parameters for group presentations allowing them only to be given for land use or adjudicatory matters, unless otherwise authorized by the Board Chair. Also, a maximum time period of four minutes will be established for individual members of each group within the ten-minute maximum, ensuring more equitable participation by all group members. 

  • To better facilitate public comment on items in which there is substantial interest, public comment may be limited to one minute per individual if there are more than ten individuals wishing to comment. The Brown Act allows the management of these time limits under Government Code Sec. 54954.3, and similar procedural rules have been adopted in many California governing bodies. 

  • As is commonplace in many jurisdictions, a consent calendar will be developed for routine or administrative items for which debate is not anticipated.  

  • Members of the public will be asked to bring their own technology to provide presentations, eliminating potential technical issues caused by the County, or to provide a presentation to the Clerk of the Board no later than 24-hours prior to the meeting.

  • Codify continued allowance of remote participation by the public to participate in Board meetings.

The policies, if supported by a majority of the Board on Wednesday will go into effect immediately, starting at the Tuesday, November 16 Board of Supervisors meeting.   

To view or participate in the virtual Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, please visit https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/cob/bosa.html#watch.