City boards, commissions must allow public comment, Meriden council says

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MERIDEN — The public will be allowed to comment at all meetings of boards and commissions appointed by the City Council under a resolution that passed with unanimous support. 

The resolution was originally put forth by minority party caucus members of the council Republican Dan Brunet, We the People member Bob Williams Jr., Republican Michael Carabetta and Republican Ray Ouellet. During the council’s March 6 meeting, Williams, who drafted the language of the original resolution, noted that Democratic Councilor Bruce A. Fontanella wanted to add his name to the list of councilors who presented it.

The resolution the council ultimately adopted was amended with an additional clause related to public hearings. It states, “However, any matter before a Board or Commission, for which a public hearing has been previously held, shall be acted upon by the Board or Commission prior to the period of public comment.”

Williams wrote the resolution’s language, prior to the amendment the council adopted. He said it was spurred by conversations with constituents. 

“Residents have said to me, they didn’t get to speak to the matter at hand,” Williams said, without referencing a specific board or commission. 

Williams explained he ran the language of the resolution by Corporation Counsel Matthew McGoldrick, for input, and was informed there were no legal issues around it. 

For Williams, proposing the resolution seemed to be a no brainer. “Of course the public should have a say on the matter at hand before a board or commission,” Williams said. “Why couldn’t they have their three-minute say?”

Williams continued, “If the public is there, let’s give time to speak. That board’s chairperson can decide if it’s before the meeting, or after the meeting — to make sure the public has a voice in the conversation. If they’re taking the time out of their day, there’s no reason they should not have their voice heard.” 

The resolution, in a series of “whereas” clauses, notes that public comment “provides residents and community members an opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions about their neighborhoods and… public comment can provide the City’s boards, commissions and offices with insight into the impact of their decisions upon the daily lives of its residents and community members.”

The resolution leaves the length of time reserved for public comment, and when it is scheduled on a meeting agenda, to individual boards and commissions, which “shall, by a majority vote, determine the length of time that the public comment period shall last and the length of time that each speaker may comment…”

The council adopted the resolution with little discussion at its March 6 meeting. That discussion included Majority Leader Sonya Jelks’ motion to amend the resolution’s language — by adding the wording around matters for which a public hearing was previously held after the second to last “be it further resolved” clause. 

Ouellet described the overall resolution as one that encourages transparency and public participation in open meetings. 

“Let them, the people attending meetings, speak afterwards. So they can speak on the topic at hand instead of waiting,” Ouellet said. 



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