After disruptions last week, Douglas County leaders say outbursts from audience members will no longer be tolerated at meetings

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The Douglas County Commission listens during the public comment period of its meeting on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. Minutes prior, commissioners had taken a moment to assert that disruptive behavior during meetings won't be tolerated.

After members of the audience disrupted the Douglas County Commission’s meeting last week and forced a brief recess, commissioners have made it clear that future outbursts won’t be tolerated.

At the beginning of their meeting Wednesday, commissioners took time to clarify when members of the public may be removed from meetings for their behavior. County leaders agreed that members of the public who direct profanity or name-calling toward public servants — such as law enforcement officers or the commissioners — or people who cause excessive outbursts at any point in the meeting will be asked to leave.

Commissioner Shannon Reid said that the commission has the right to remove members of the public for disruptive behavior. Her fellow commissioners, Patrick Kelly and Shannon Portillo, said that it was important to make sure that the public still had the opportunity to provide comment and feedback to county leaders in a productive way.

At last week’s meeting, two members of the audience, Brian Conner and Justin Spiehs, interrupted commissioners while they were attempting to vote on a motion, as the Journal-World previously reported. When they refused to stop yelling and arguing about when they were allowed to offer public comment, Kelly called for a five-minute recess and explained the commission’s procedures to them. Conner remained in the courthouse chambers after that meeting had adjourned and continued to argue with law enforcement officers.

In other business Wednesday, the commission:

* Approved a request to help the Lawrence Juneteenth Organization, a local nonprofit, with $5,000 in one-time funding for a local Juneteenth celebration.

Janine Colter, the president of the organization, expressed her appreciation to county leaders for hearing out the request. Portillo did have a question about whether people from throughout Douglas County — not just those residing in Lawrence — would be included in the celebration. Colter said the organization would be offering tours of historic sites throughout the county and sharing history related to the Black community in the county as a whole.

“We do have the whole county involved and we are inviting them, as well, to participate,” Colter said.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Janine Colter, president of the Lawrence Juneteenth Organization, presents to the Douglas County Commission Wednesday. The organization requested — and was granted — $5,000 in one-time funding to help with a community Juneteenth celebration.

Commissioners agreed to grant the Juneteenth group’s request, but they also agreed that they should have a broader discussion in the future about their process for considering similar requests for funding help from other community groups.

* Heard a presentation from Valorie Carson, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s director of policy and planning, about the health department’s recently completed 2021 Health Equity Report. Commissioners thanked Carson and the health department for putting together the report, and they said future editions of the report would be a good measuring stick for progress in health equity outcomes in the county.


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