Lecture coming on limits of citizen comment at city meetings

Sandy Matkivich

Sandy Matkivich

William McCray

William McCray

Citizen comment time at city commission meetings is meant for members of the public to offer the board views on issues on the agenda, or on items of general interest to the city, not their views on each other.

That was the view expressed at the Mayor/Commissioner work session Monday by City Commissioner Cory Neering, with much of the board nodding in accord. As a result the city attorney or mayor likely will make a statement to that effect at next Monday’s commission meeting.

Neering made clear he wasn’t directing his comment at any particular citizen.

But the latest episodes took place at the May 9 meeting. Former West Palm police officer William McCray used his three allotted minutes at the mic to call one or more of the commissioners racist and their actions shameful and disgusting, as he does at almost every meeting, when he’s not accusing the Palm Beach Post of being in bed with the commission.

He was followed by Sandy Matkivich, also a regular commentator on a variety of issues. She has taken to countering McCray, at times reading into the record from his police disciplinary files. This time she recommended that if he thought West Palm Beach’s leadership was racist, he should move to Riviera Beach, more of whose officials are African-American.

Neering said the tenor of the citizen comments in recent months has veered out of bounds. He noted that commission agendas spell out the Civility and Decorum ordinance, which states prominently: “Public comment shall be addressed to the city as a whole and not to any individual on the dais or in the audience.”

Mayor Jeri Muoio agreed to have the audience reminded of that rule at the next meeting.

But she expressed concern that efforts to clamp down, as at times she has by ejecting people, run the risk of making matters worse. “Any extra attention we draw to this bad behavior exacerbates it,” she said, noting that speakers know they’re on TV and that there’s a reporter in attendance. “That’s exactly what they want.”