ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – The Delta County Board of Commissioners has approved a new rule that the chairman says will help “maintain order.”
“In order for the commission to effectively transact business of the people, the chair is charged with maintaining an orderly environment within the public meetings of the Delta County Commission,” said Board Chairman David Moyle.
On Tuesday, Moyle proposed an addition to the board’s rules and procedures, which he told fellow commissioners would allow the board to keep meetings “orderly” when members of the public speak “out of turn.”
“If an individual is warned more than twice for intentionally speaking out of order, that person can be asked to leave the meeting by the chair,” Moyle said.
According to the addition, a person asked to leave can appeal. The board then votes to support or overrule the chair’s decision.
“It’s been happening for many months,” Commissioner Bob Barron said of “outbursts” from the audience. “This gives the chair a much stronger position.”
Commissioner Steven Viau told Moyle he received the information on the proposed rule shortly before the meeting.
“I thought I would wait until the board packet came out Wednesday or Thursday and do a little checking on it,” Viau said. “Having this at the twelfth hour is very difficult.”
“I don’t have a problem if you wait until the next meeting for this,” Moyle replied.
However, the board decided to vote on the addition to its rules and procedures, which passed three to two. Commissioners Moyle, Barron, and Robert Petersen voted in support of it, while Viau and John Malnar voted against it.
After the vote, one county resident stood and asked for Moyle’s attention.
“Sir, you’re out of order,” Moyle told him.
“I may be, and you can kick me out,” the resident said.
“Sir, I really don’t want to,” replied Moyle. “You’re out of order.”
“I think you’re a bunch of hypocrites,” the resident said. “You’re really running a kangaroo court here.”
“Sir, point of order,” Moyle interjected. “Point of order. If you don’t sit down, I’m going to have to recess the meeting and have you escorted out.”
The resident continued to speak. Moyle called a recess, as outlined in the new rule. It was one of several moments to elicit applause from a portion of the audience.
Wells Township resident Anthony Seymour was one of the most vocal members of the audience.
“I interpret it as a reduction in the ability of the people’s freedom of speech,” Seymour told WZMQ 19. “It’s infringement on our ability to voice our opinion and our support for other people that are commenting on relevant items that are having an impact on our community. I made a choice to join the Marine Corps years ago to defend my country’s right to speak and the right to be heard, and that doesn’t end when my contract ends. We need to stay on top of what’s going on and maintain our rights.”
“This does not eliminate somebody’s right to talk,” Moyle said during the meeting. “We’re giving you two opportunities—one at the beginning of the meeting, one at the end of the meeting. It simply puts a structure to our policies.”
WZMQ 19 spoke with several people in attendance who did not support the behavior of those speaking out during the meeting. Each declined to discuss their position on camera.