Can a member of the public be banned from a Langley Township council meeting?
On Monday, Coun. Charlie Fox suggested sending a letter to one frequent council watcher, asking him to maintain decorum.
Fox didn't mention the name of the individual, and the other councillors quickly suggested moving the discussion to an in camera, or private, meeting.
If a council is disrupted by heckling, noise, or speakers who absolutely refuse to sit down, what measures can be taken to ban or control members of the public?
According to Township administrator Mark Bakken, it is possible to ban people from attending public locations, but it requires a court order.
There is apparently one person who is under a court order to stay away from Township meetings, but the matter is more than a decade old.
On a meeting to meeting basis, the chair of a council meeting - usually the mayor or a councillor serving as deputy mayor - has a few methods of dealing with unruly audience members.
The mayor can choose to adjourn the meeting, or to move it to another venue until the disturbance is over.
If the disturbance continues, or if it is repeated over and over again, the council can have the police remove someone, said Bakken.
Generally, a person who shouts or heckles but quiets down can't be hauled out of a public meeting, but someone who does it over and over again might be.
"There's a certain sense of reasonableness," Bakken said.
Langley has not been without incidents that tested the boundaries of what was allowed at a public meetings in the past, especially when tensions ran high.
In 2007, as the Langley School Board voted on whether to turn H.D. Stafford Secondary into a middle school, Dave Hall was removed from a public meeting by security guards.
Hall had been shouting "Point of order!" as the meeting had gone past 11 p.m. without the board noticing. A vote was required to continue the meeting.
Hall said he was taken to the edge of the parking lot and left on the sidewalk. He later complained about being bruised. Hall, a former school board trustee, has since been elected to Langley City council.
After the incident, the meeting room became chaotic, and the board adjourned to a small room with only staff and the media present to hold the final vote.
In 1998 and 1999, an already tense Township council had to deal with a citizen who had a peace bond preventing contact with one politician.
Earl Brunt, an elderly avid council watcher, was a partisan for the then-dominant Langley Leadership Team. He allegedly harassed the late councillor Heather McMullan, who was heading up opposition to the LLT.
After McMullan said Brunt grabbed her arm outside of a meeting, he was arrested and spent a night in prison. The two eventually reached an out-of-court settlement that banned Brunt from coming within 100 metres of McMullan, but allowed him to attend council meetings and address her only during formal appearances as a delegate.
In the summer of 1997, council tested the rules for whether a speaker at a public hearing can talk for an unlimited amount of time.
Keven Wickham began speaking at a meeting about the highly controversial plan for the Vicwood development, a planned subdivision at 200th Street and Zero Avenue.
The meeting began at 7 p.m. at Wix Brown Elementary, and ended at 6: 20 a.m. the following day Although there were 76 speakers, by far the most voluble was Wickham, who talked for two and a half hours before being stopped at 4: 45 a.m. A legal opinion was gained during his speech, advising that he had been given a reasonable amount of time to present his views.
The only break in the lengthy meeting came when one member of the audience fainted in the hot, crowded room and was taken to hospital briefly.
Vicwood would later fail to develop, and was replaced by the current High Point housing development.
@ Copyright 2013