Jul 30, 2014
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Residents Threaten Legal Action over Robinson Commenting Policy

Board of Commissioners chairman said the new policy for commenting at public meetings helps maintain order.

Residents Threaten Legal Action over Robinson Commenting Policy

Robinson residents said they may take legal action against the township's Board of Commissioners regarding its newly approved rules for speaking at municipal meetings. 

Two residents were turned away from speaking Monday night during the township's Board of Commissioners business meeting and directed to address the board after the meeting's adjournment. One man was led away from the meeting by a officer for interrupting board chairman Samuel Abatta.

Last month, the board adopted a policy that requires residents to sign in prior to meetings and limits public comment to items on the agenda. All other comments must be made after the meeting's adjournment. 

Several members of the public, including former Commissioner Jerry Brouker, said the board's new policy is in violation of  Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act. 

"I don't believe any of you have a full understanding of the sunshine law," Brouker said following the business meeting's adjournment. "These rules are set up to harm people like me. To try to suppress our speech." 

Linda Jackubec, chairperson for the Republican Committee of Robinson Township, said a group of township residents have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the new policy. 

"But if we do not hear back from them shortly we will be seeking our own legal representation," Jackubec said. "We also have a petition circulating around the community." 

Residents asked the board to include non-agenda items during the regular meeting and that those comments be recorded for the township's public access television station. 

Abatta told residents that the policy allows for more efficient meetings. He said members of the public could contact him with non-agenda concerns prior to the meeting. 

"This keeps it very business-like, very in order," Abatta said at the meeting. "We don't want a circus. We don't want people coming with personal attacks at commissioners.

"No personal attacks. No making false statements about someone. No screaming from the back of the room. No yelling and running out of the room," he said. 

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