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Free speech or public comment?

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Free speech or public comment?

WAUSAU,WI (WAOW)-- Questions rose after a few Wausau School Board members decided to speak out during the ‘public comment’ section of recent Board meetings. The question: Whether their comments went against Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.

Currently the law states any elected body is prohibited to speak during this section. Further discussion led to the Board wanting to simply add to the policy to protect all Board members in this regard.

Much speculation came from a possible implication of infringement on the Board members’ right to free speech. Other remarks wanted personal opinion to be separated from position and other Board member opinion

Wausau School Board President Pat Mckee said, “Our goal was simply to add some language to our policy that protects the rest of the board from being brought in to any complain that a citizen may levy against a board member that may do that.”

On October 11, the Board met with legal counsel, Kirk Strang and agreed upon the policy as follows:

‘Board members are advised that the Board prohibits its members from participating as speakers during the period of public comment because doing so violates Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. A board member who participates as a speaker during the period of public comment does so at his or her peril under the law and without the endorsement of board members or the board as a whole. In addition, any statements made by a board member participating as a speaker during a period of public comment do not necessarily represent the position of the board’s members or the board as a whole and shall be in no event deemed binding to the board.’

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