A proposal to adopt guidelines for public comments was quashed by members of the Jay City Council on Monday, Aug. 7, as a it failed to come to a vote.
The proposal, in the works for the past two months, came at the request of newest council member Danny Price.
In one of his first orders of business, Price asked the other members to consider adding section allowing for public comments as a regular agenda item.
As Mayor Les Newkirk presented the guidelines for consideration, Jay City Attorney John Thomas told the council he strongly discouraged approving the plan.
"I'm a cautious person by nature," Thomas said. "My job is to caution you, and to caution the town, not to open yourselves up to violating someone's rights.
"I don't like the idea of allowing the public to talk, because somebody will restrict content and we will be sued."
Price challenged Thomas to provide legal cases, showing where a city has came under legal fire for allowing public comments.
At one point during the meeting, the discussion between Price and Thomas grew heated, with Price requesting a "private meeting" with Thomas to discuss their men's "difference of opinions."
Thomas said he also takes issue with the council opening the meeting with prayer, and the section at the end of the meeting allowing for council member's comments.
"I think it's a Pandora's box," Thomas said. "My job is to protect the town from civil liability."
In the end, the proposal, which placed time limits on patrons wishing to speak, as well as when a person is required to sign in with the city clerk to speak, and how the council would address issues or topics raised, did not come to a vote when Price's motion for passage failed to receive a second.
After the meeting, Price said he was disappointed in the failure. He was unsure if the measure would come before the council again.
Council members Kyle Stump, JoAnn Neal and Dwayne Ellis each expressed concerns about the proposal.
Neal said she wanted to look into Thomas' claims in greater detail, while Ellis said he feared adding public comments would be "too risky" for the council.
Stump said while he believes the opinion of the public is both important and needed, more time is needed to determine how to involve it within the council meetings.
"I want to get it right so we don't have to revisit the situation," Stump said. "I think Mr. Price and Mr. Thomas both had some valid points."
In other business, the council:
• approved an ordinance No. 309, by a unanimous vote, to limit semi-trucks on city streets. Truck traffic will be limited to Monroe/Osage, Fourth and the Industrial Park.
• voted down ordinance No. 310, which would have allowed a residence on West Dial Street to be changed from residential to agricultural R1A. Newkirk told resident Emily Brown to be patient. He anticipates a new ordinance, which addresses the presence of chickens within the city limits, will fulfill her request - without a zoning change.
• approved placing a 2009 Dodge Charger, used previously by the Jay Police Department, on the surplus list. Jay PD Chief Mike Shambaugh said the car is "a money pit," and has been replaced within the department's fleet of vehicles.
• accepted a bid from Darrel Dollarhide for $1,250 to clean up and debris removal of a foundation at 658 West Cherokee, and a bid from Laramy O'Leary for $2,900 to clean up a property at 607 WEst Gray Street. Newkirk said both residents have been condemned. He said the bids were the next step in an ongoing measures to clean up portions of Jay.