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Letter: Public comment at meeting not stifled

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Jeff Logston, city attorney and executive director of administration

I find the letter to the editor from Laurie Booher titled “Dodging questions at meeting not promising” regarding her inability to ask questions during a public meeting of the city of Columbus very misleading and inaccurate.

Ms. Booher completely misconstrued a conversation we had prior to the Board of Works meeting on Jan. 14. She alleges that she informed me that she wanted to ask questions during the Board of Works meeting and I would not allow it. However, in our conversation, she only stated she desired to publicly read into the record several public records requests during the Board of Works meeting as she wanted them reflected in the minutes.

At that time, I informed her of the legal process that has been put in place by the city and state to make records requests, which includes making the request to the clerk treasurer’s office, the official keeper of city records. I did inform her that reading public records requests into the record at any public meeting would be inappropriate because that is not the legal process set out by the city or state nor the city’s practice as we receive multiple requests on a daily basis.

At no time did we ever discuss anyone’s ability, or lack thereof, to make comments or ask questions as a citizen in the Board of Works meeting. Since my conversation with Ms. Booher was delaying the start of the meeting, I offered to meet with her immediately afterward. She chose not to accept the invitation.

Ms. Booher also alleges that the chairwoman of the Board of Works meeting did not allow her to speak.

In an ongoing effort to improve transparency, the city began live video streaming and archiving on the Internet the meetings of the city’s governing bodies.

I reviewed the online video recording of the meeting and verified that Jayne Farber, who chaired the meeting in the mayor’s absence that day, opened the meeting with Ms. Booher present, informed the audience that the meeting was open to the public and requested public comments. No response from anyone including Ms. Booher. The allegation that the meeting was not open to public comments and questions is false.

Indiana law only requires public comment on very few occasions, mainly approvals of expenditures. However, it is has been the mayor’s position and practice to take public comments at all meetings and on all action items of the City Council and Board of Works because the public’s ability to participate in its government is paramount.

I have since reached out and met with Ms. Booher regarding her concerns and confusion. She agreed that she at no time voiced her desire to make a public comment to me or anyone else at the Board of Works meeting.

My role with the city is a resource for the community, and my door is always open. I have conversations with community members and the media on a daily basis addressing questions, concerns and requests and will continue to do so in an open and professional manner.

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