Comanche County Commissioners want to ensure county government is responsive to residents.
Commissioners explored the idea of changes to their public participation policy Monday, and potentially restructuring the weekly meeting’s agenda. The board ultimately tabled any action, with District 3 Commissioner Josh Powers saying he wanted to more fully explore procedures and ask questions before he brings his item back to the full board for a vote.
Powers said he was asking questions about a county policy that hasn’t been updated since it was last amended in 2001.
“There have been changes in state law in that time,” he said, adding he wanted to ensure the policies used by commissioners were in line with what Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act specifies.
Comanche County District Attorney Kyle Cabelka said state law has remained consistent over the years and does not require commissioners to allow public participation at their meeting. He said the law’s emphasis is on ensuring an agenda is published and gives specific details about the items the board will discuss.
“There does not have to be public participation in the meeting at all,” Cabelka said, that for those who do, the idea is to allow the board to hear from the public, not to respond to specific comments. “I think the public participation part should stay on the agenda.”
Powers asked about existing agenda framework, which includes public participation at the end of the agenda, as the last item before a meeting is adjourned.
“We wait until after we make a decision before we get public input,” Powers said.
Cabelka said he doesn’t agree with including public comments at the end of the meeting, adding if commissioners want to allow members of the public to talk, he thinks commissioners should hear those comments before they vote on an item. Cabelka said placing the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting “is the cleanest.” He also said other counties handle public comments in different ways: some don’t allow public comments; those who do may include them at the end or beginning of the meeting; one county requires comments to be presented in writing before the meeting begins; another county allows public participation in every item on which they vote.