At a recent Helena-West Helena City Council meeting a member of the community attempted to speak to the Council and was denied the opportunity to express their views.
Local Attorney James Valley provided the Helena World with a document titled the First Amendment and City Council Meetings written by Thomas M. Carpenter, Arkansas City Attorneys’ Association.
There is an urge to permit any interested party to speak on issues at city council meetings. While state statutes require some kind of pubic hearings, such as those required before creating an improvement district, there is no absolute constitutional right to speak at city council hearings.
While an individual may want a governmental audience to consider certain policy views, this desire finds no special protection in the U.S. Constitution. Unless some state statute requires a focused public hearing on a particular topic, as a general rule, the Constitution does not require city official to conduct a citizen’s input portion of the public meeting.
There is no constitutional right to have a city council meeting opened for public discussion on any topic unless the council has on its agenda a public comment time with speaker time limits for community input or statements.