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Commissioners Court Approve “Rules, Conduct and Decorum At Meetings” Policy

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If you want to speak during the public forum portion of Hopkins County Commissioners Court, you will required fill out a public participation form first and starting Sept. 26, 2022. Also, requests must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday prior to a regular Commissioners Court meeting in order to have an item included on the next Monday’s agenda.

Hopkins County Commissioners Court Monday morning, Sept. 26, 2022, approved the “Rules of Procedure, Conduct and Decorum at Meetings of the Hopkins County Commissioners Court” establishing the requirements.

Form Hopkins County Commissioners Court now requires individuals to complete prior to each court session and submit to the County Clerk in order to speak on a particular matter or public comments

According to the policy, the Commissioners Court will meet in regular session the second and fourth Mondays of each month. To get “a matter or issue” on the regular agenda, “a request must be filed with and approved by at least one member of the Commissioners Court and/or the County Judge by 12:00 p.m. (noon) on the Wednesday immediately preceding the next Regular Meeting of the Commissioners Court.”

The policy adopted Sept. 26, 2022, further stipulates that while all except executive sessions of the Commissioners Court, including regular, special and work session meetings are open to the public, public participation is limited to observer unless otherwise requested to address the Commissioners Court on a particular issue or issues, or unless the member(s) of the public completes a public participation form and submits it to the County Clerk prior to the time the agenda item(s) is(are) addressed by the Commissioners Court.

Those who do complete the form and appear will be given a maximum of 5 minutes to make remarks. The time for each speaker will be maintained by the County Clerk or other designated representative of the Commissioners Court. If more than one person signs up to speak, the maximum time given for any one agenda items will be 30 minutes. If more than 6 people ask to speak on a particular agenda item, the time allocated to speakers will be divided equally among those submitting forms to speak for and those wishing to speak against an agenda item.

“In matters of exceptional interest, the Court may, by the majority vote of the members of the Court in attendance at the meeting, either shorten or lengthen the time allocated for all members of the public and/or the amount of time allocated for all agenda items and/or a specific agenda item,” the new public forum and agenda policy states.

The Commissioners Court, the document states, can issue a contempt of court citation to people who do not abide by the court’s orders or who continue causing a disruption. “Members of the public in attendance at any Regular, Special and/or Emergency Meeting of the Court shall conduct themselves with proper respect and decorum in speaking to and/or addressing the Court; in participating in public discussions before the Court; and in all actions in the presence of the Court. Proper attire for men, women and children is mandatory,” the document stated.

No individual or group is to be demeaned or nor will anyone be allowed “to insult the honesty and/or integrity of the Court, as a body, or any member or members of the Court, individually or collectively. Accordingly, profane, insulting or threatening language directed toward the Court and/or any person in the Court’s presence and/or racial, ethnic, or gender slurs or epithets will not be tolerated.” The policy, specifically stipulates the public is not prohibited from criticizing of the Commissioners Court. Those who do behave in a manner determined to violate the policy will have their remaining time canceled, be removed from the courtroom and issued a contempt of court and civil or criminal sanctions may be authorized if such action is allowable under the Constitution, statutes and codes of the state.

The judge heads the court, and if absent, a senior member of the court (in terms of years served as an elected commissioners) will serve as judge pro-tem. That job, however, can be delegated by the senior members to another commissioner.

Media and their equipment, including lights, cameras and microphones, can’t be any closer than 5 feet in front of the Commissioners Court bench. Media movements, including equipment set-up, take-down and adjustments must not disrupt court deliberations or the public’s ability to see, hear or participate as allowable in proceedings..

No media interviews are to be conducted during the court session. Any media interviews outside the courtroom must be conducted so that it doesn’t disrupt or disturb the court proceedings.

The sheriff or his designated deputy will serve as bailiff at court meetings, and if neither is available or there is a conflict between the sheriff, his department or court, or during an executive session where the sheriff’ isn’t authorized to participate, the court can appoint another commissioned peace officer to serve as bailiff, as necessary, the polity states.

The same meetings that apply to court and work sessions too will apply to any to any town hall or public hearing conducted by the Commissioners Court, according to the document approved Sept. 26 by the Commissioners Court.

hopkins co courthouse
Hopkins County Commissioners Court meets regularly at 9 a.m. the second and fourth Mondays of each month in the first floor courtroom inside Hopkins County Courthouse

Author: Faith Huffman

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