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Rules of decorum at council meetings addressed in Nisswa

It seems a council workshop to learn basic rules of decorum and procedures to follow at meetings couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nisswa City Council.

Two residents berated the council and Mayor Brian Lehman in particular during the open forum portion of the regular monthly city council meeting Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Several days later, on Monday, Feb. 24, the council met with city attorney Jim Gammello, who outlined basic council policies and procedures. The council had scheduled that workshop in January.

At the regular monthly council meeting Feb. 24, resident Tom Groen asked about a policy regarding when residents could speak at council meetings — only during open forum or as agenda items came up?

After not receiving a direct answer, he also asked if the council had yet brought in a facilitator to help improve communication among staff and council members, saying the council had said several months ago it would do this.

Groen reiterated his question several times as council members Joe Meyer and Tina Foster, as well as Lehman, attempted to answer. Meyer referred to Monday’s workshop; Foster and Lehman said the council was taking steps to address items but it takes time.

Groen said he would come back and ask the question again.

Resident Fred Heidmann said Lehman did a poor job of running meetings and defended Groen’s questions. He also asked about the city’s policy regarding when residents could speak at meetings.

Gammello said a council meeting isn’t a free-for-all where the pubilc makes decisions. Rather, the council and the mayor running the meeting have the discretion to determine when the public can speak.

He said that night’s conversation was resulting in accusations and attacks, which have no place at a council meeting.

“Procedures and order have a place and can be addressed. Personal comments are out of line,” Gammello said.

Heidmann again asked for the city policy on when citizens can speak and traded more comments with Lehman. Gammello said the council needs to publish the rules of decorum for the public, as well as know the city code.

Council member Gary Johnson was absent Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Nancy Vogt can be reached at Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @PEJ_Nancy.