News Release

Second WPB Forum on Public Speech Focuses on Civility Code

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August 20, 2013

(West Palm Beach, FL) – The City of West Palm Beach civility code became the hot topic of debate and discussion during the Mayor’s second forum on public civility.

During a 90 minute panel discussion, several members of both the panel and the public expressed frustration both with the way the code is written as well as how they perceive it is applied.

Local attorney Gerald Richman, a Board Certified attorney who specializes in laws related to freedom of speech issues, was asked by the city to examine the civility code and offer his thoughts on its wording.

Richman said the code, like many laws of its kind, leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. He also explained courts have established that city meetings are not absolute forums for unlimited speech.

Richman said courts have determined city meetings are “limited” public forums.  The legal term “limited” as applied by the courts refers to a city’s right to establish certain rules regarding public comment during meetings.

But the term “limited” did not sit well with several members of the panel and the public who advocated for unlimited speech during meetings.

Another hot topic dealt with the perception by some that the civility code, regardless of how it is written, is not being properly and evenly enforced.

This was the second in a series of public forums on civility and public speech.  West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio has asked members of the public to help the city better define what is appropriate speech during city commission meetings.

 

 
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