Members of the Paulding County Airport Authority and Industrial Building Authority unanimously voted for new, identical public participation policies following months of requests. The policies would go into effect for the March 19 meetings. Airport Authority Chairman Calvin Thompson said the authority would not allow cheering or clapping during public input sessions.
“There’s not going to be any applauding. It’s going to be strictly business,” he said.
The policies state a total of three audience members will be allowed five minutes each to speak to either of the boards “because of limited availability” of board members. They will be required to provide their names and topics of their remarks to director Blake Swafford by the Friday before the monthly scheduled meeting dates.
If more than three apply to speak, the chairman of each board will decide who will speak based on timing of the request and topic relevance.
Tom Cable, attorney for both boards, said, “It is important to me that you have certain rules governing decorum of both the speakers and audience members, as well as members of the authority.” Board members then voted to include the wording, “The chairman may rule a person addressing the authority out of order. A second ruling that the person is out of order will cause the person to forfeit his or her remaining time.
“Persons wishing to address the [two boards] must remain on the topic they presented for discussion.
“The rules of decorum for public meetings will be enforced. Personal attacks will not be tolerated. Persons violating the rules of decorum may be removed from the meeting.”
Members of the audience may not interrupt the presentation “or make positive or negative comments during the presentation. Members of the audience interrupting the presentation of the meeting may be removed from the meeting,” the policies state.
Members also voted to include wording to allow them to answer questions following a presentation.
Cable said authority members should answer questions if they only required “simple” answers rather than a decision from the entire board.
Paulding resident Karen Baroni said she felt public participation sessions should be at the start of the meeting so board members know the public’s feelings about an issue before they vote.
Paul Taylor, a 19-year resident, said he understood the need to maintain order in a meeting. However, he said he disagreed with providing speech topics that could be rejected.
“They act like they’re doing us a favor by allowing us to speak,” Taylor said.
The airport authority oversees operations of Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, while the industrial building authority works to attract employers or encourage industrial development through funding its own construction or loans for work.
Both bodies have been the subjects of controversy since the October announcement the airport authority in 2012 contracted with a company that planned to bring commercial passenger flights to the airport.