Lacey will update public comment policy on meetings following the Zoom bomb incident

Author: JC Medina

In response to a racial incident that occurred during an Equity Committee meeting, Lacey now plans to revise its public comment policy.

The March 25 incident involved remote participants making discriminatory and hateful comments during public comment during a regular committee meeting.

The incident was condemned by the City Council, which issued a statement condemning discrimination and hate speech.

City officials have begun reviewing Lacey’s public comment policy to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

After conducting research and attending training sessions on the topic, employees outlined options for updating the public comment policy.

Deputy City Manager Shannon Kelley-Fong said the proposed options are intended to increase accountability and ensure an atmosphere of respect during public meetings, as well as protect individuals’ First Amendment rights.

“I think it’s really important to tie this issue back to our federal and state law,” Kelley-Fong said

Meeting regulations

One proposed option involves taking steps to verify the identity of remote speakers, especially those participating via platforms such as Zoom.

This would involve pre-registration and collecting certain information such as your name, city of residence, and the subject of your comments. Additionally, updated Zoom protocols will be implemented to control speaking privileges and prevent disruptive behavior.

Another option being considered is to establish a universal allotment of public comment time at all City Council and Advisory Board meetings. This would involve the use of timers to ensure that comments remain within the designated deadline, which would promote efficiency and fairness in the public comment process.

The third option proposes creating a standard public comment policy at all City Council and Advisory Board meetings. This would help reduce uncertainty and provide clear guidance for those wishing to participate in public discussions.

The Capital Committee and City Council considered their opinions and recommendations on each option during meetings on May 6 and 7, respectively. City officials will update the recommendations and present them to council again at the meeting.

“As part of free speech, we also need to regulate what is the worst possible thing that can happen,” said Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder. “And unfortunately, I think in these circumstances, if we’re going to try to impose some restrictions, we have to be uniform in that.

Otherwise we treat people differently,” Ryder continued. “And that’s the one thing we shouldn’t be doing here.”