Letter to the Editor: Should government take away public comment?

Published 12:45 am Friday, February 10, 2023

Dear Editor, 

I stand behind my letter to the editor published in The Farmville Herald on Jan. 25. In my letter I stated that the Buckingham County Electoral Board had never before voted to disallow public comment at an Electoral Board meeting until their meeting on Jan. 17. That statement was challenged in your paper by another reader. I stand by my statement. 

You can verify my statement by checking the Electoral Board minutes for past years. Electoral Board minutes that are not on-line are on file for inspection at the Registrar’s office. If no public comment is mentioned in the Electoral Board minutes, that means that there was no citizen at the meeting who chose to make a public comment. In the past, any member of the public who attended an Electoral Board meeting was always allowed to speak. If a past Electoral Board had voted to disallow public comment, (which it didn’t), that vote would have been recorded in the minutes. 

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Past minutes show that a vote to disallow public comment never happened until the current Electoral Board did so at their meeting on Jan. 17. 

In addition, I can attest to my statement because I was present at all Buckingham Electoral Board meetings from 1991-2019. Members of past Electoral Boards can also confirm my statement. Furthermore, I checked the Buckingham Electoral Board minutes of meetings back to 1975. None of the minutes showed that the Electoral Board ever voted to block public comment until the current Electoral Board did on Jan. 17. 

Should a public governmental body doing public business block public comment at a public meeting? 

Margaret Thomas