The Andover High School Building Committee became the first town body to adopt a new policy for public comment during meetings following a ruling earlier this month by the state’s highest court.

The policy, which was drafted by Andover Public Schools attorney John Foskett, was adopted at Wednesday’s meeting. The new policy limits the public comment session to a total of 15 minutes. Individual speakers have three minutes and can only address topics on that meeting’s agenda.

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Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said it would be up to the discretion of each town board and committee to review their own public comment rules. Flanagan sits on the building committee and voted to adopt the policy, along with the other nine members.

“I can’t say if other Town boards/committees will follow the building committee’s lead by adopting a policy,” Flanagan said. “That doesn’t mean they won’t, I am just not sure the timeframe in which they may consider such action.” 

The complete policy can be read at the bottom of this article.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled the Southborough select board’s public comment policy — which reads “All remarks and dialogue in public meetings must be respectful and courteous, free of rude, personal or slanderous remarks. Inappropriate language and/or shouting will not be allowed” — violates free speech rights guaranteed in the state Constitution.

Earlier this month, Town Counsel Urbelis briefed the select board on the ruling and suggested “some select boards and some city councils may decide not to have a public speak session and not have to deal with the issue.”

Andover High School Building Committee Public Comment Policy

Adopted March 27, 2023

In order to ensure the ability of the Committee to conduct its business in an orderly manner and in compliance with the Open Meeting Law, the Committee adopts the following public comment session rules and procedures. The Committee requests that all persons attending its meetings conducts themselves in a civil and respectful manner.

  1. The public comment session will last a maximum of 15 minutes. Each speaker is limited to a maximum of 3 minutes. When a speaker’s time has expired he/she will cease speaking and shall yield the floor.
  2. Only speakers recognized by the Chair shall speak. All speakers must identify themselves by name and address.
  3. The public comment session is limited to matters that are listed in the Committee’s posted agenda for the meeting.
  4. The public comment session is an opportunity for members of the public to express their views. It is not an opportunity for dialogue or exchanges between the committee and the speakers and no Committee members shall respond to or otherwise engage in dialogue with the speakers.
  5. No person may interrupt or otherwise interfere with a speaker while he/she is speaking.
  6. The use of racial, ethnic, gender-based, and similar epithets and disparagements about a person or group is prohibited.
  7. The use of speech that threatens violence or that is likely to incite imminent unlawful conduct is prohibited.
  8. No person may engage in physical conduct towards another person or persons and all conduct that disrupts the meeting is prohibited.
One thought on “First Andover Board Adopts New Policy After Public Comment Ruling”
  1. When does the public get to bring their ideas and concerns to the members of the committees, commissions, and boards? When and how often will the members interact with the citizens and have an exchange of ideas instead of stoically listening for a total 15 min to topics only on the agenda?

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