This protocol is designed to guide the Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in conducting public workshops and meetings of the Commission.
(1) Notice and Agenda
(3) Official Action
(4) Obtaining and Assigning the Floor
(5) Public Comment at Workshops and meetings
(7) Disruption of Commission Meetings
(8) Complaints Against Commissioners or Staff
(9) Floor Amendments that Differ or Conflict with Staff Recommendation
(1) Notice and Agenda of Commission meetings:
The Commission has adopted the Uniform Rules of Procedure to govern the notice and agenda requirements of meetings. Under the Uniform Rules, there shall be at least seven days notice of any public meeting, hearing or workshop by publication in the Florida Administrative Weekly, Rule 28-102.001, F.A.C. There shall be an agenda which specifies the items to be considered at the meeting, hearing or workshop. The Chairman may make specific changes in the agenda, Rule 28-102.001, F.A.C., after it has been made available for distribution only for "good cause" shown. The Commission staff posts all Commission Meeting notices, agendas and background information on its website in advance of the meeting.
Under the Robert's Rules of Order, a quorum for any public meeting at which official agency action will be taken is a majority of the full membership of the Commission, which is four members.
(3) Official Action of the Commission:
Any matter brought before the Commission for official action must be done by motion. The steps by which a motion is brought before the Commission and acted upon are as follows:
(a) A Commissioner makes a motion.
(b) Another Commissioner must second the motion.
(c) The Chairman opens the motion to discussion.
(d) The Chairman puts the question, that is, puts the motion to a vote (generally, the Chairman should ask for an affirmative and negative vote but on minor or noncontroversial motions, may ask for a negative vote.)
(e) The Chairman announces the result of the vote.
(4) Obtaining and assigning the floor:
To provide for an orderly interaction between Commissioners, staff and members of the public during Commission meetings and workshops, there are basic procedures under Robert's Rules of Order for "
Obtaining and Assigning the Floor."
The procedures are:
(a) Before any Commissioner, employee or member of the public may make a motion or speak, he or she must obtain the floor, that is, be formally recognized by the Chairman. Once recognized by the Chairman, that person has the exclusive right to be heard at that time. If the person is an employee or a member of the public (entered information in the speaker database-located at the FWC registration desk), he or she approaches to the microphone. The Chairman recognizes the person by their full name.
(b) Only the Chairman may assign the floor. Other Commissioners, employees or members of the public shall not assign the floor.
(c) Anyone who wishes to address the Commission must register their information at the FWC registration desk. Anyone not recognized by the Chairman but who wishes to speak while another person has the floor, is out of order.
(d) Anyone recognized by the Chairman shall speak only at the microphone to assure that his or her remarks may be heard and for the preservation of the remarks in the audio recording and meeting minutes.
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(5) Public Comment at Commission workshops and meetings:
All persons who request an opportunity to speak at a Commission workshop or meeting will be allowed to speak within the following Commission guidelines: The Chairman will, where appropriate, encourage members of organizations to donate their time to a representative of their organization to speak on their behalf. The Chairman will ask all speakers to refrain from repeating comments from previous members of the public. When a large number of people wish to speak, the Chairman may limit the time for each speaker, or the time allotted to public comment on specific agenda items, in order to ensure that all speakers are heard within the time allotted for the meeting.
The primary purpose of the workshop is to allow staff an opportunity to brief the Commission on issues of interest and allow the Commission to solicit such information and advice from staff as may be necessary. Consistent with this purpose, public comment during the workshop should ordinarily be limited to the portion of the agenda specifically set aside for that purpose. As circumstances may dictate, the Chairman is free to impose time limitations on speakers and allow for the pooling of speaking time by organizational representatives, consistent with the guidelines set forth below for Commission meetings.
In order to assure meaningful and orderly public comment at the Commission meeting, the following guidelines may be implemented at the discretion of the Chairman:
(a) At the Commission meeting, public comment, if any, will be taken immediately after staff presentation of each item appearing on the "Items Requiring Action" portion of the agenda. After hearing public comment on an item, the Commissioners shall take appropriate action on the issue and then move to the next item.
(b) A member of the Commission staff will manage the list of registered speakers during the public meeting. The list will indicate which item the speaker wishes to comment on, the name of their organization, and whether a person wishes to be heard through a representative. The information is listed in the order that the speakers registered, consistent with the order of the meeting agenda items, and the Vice Chairman shall announce each speaker in that order.
(c) If the Chairman has imposed a time limit for individual speakers, that time limit should be applied uniformly and each speaker shall be allowed to speak up to three minutes. The Chairman may impose a time limit for all public comment on any specific agenda item in order to ensure that all speakers are provided an opportunity to speak within the time allotted for the Commission meeting.
(d) If a speaker is representing five or more individuals in attendance at the meeting, the Chairman may pool all the speaker representatives to represent their speaking time. The speaker representative will be allowed no more than fifteen minutes. The names of individuals in an organization that donated their time may be announced by the Vice Chairman.
(e) A Commission staff member will keep time for each speaker and inform the Chairman when the speaker's time has expired. The Commission may use such timing devices as may be practicable to ensure that all speakers stay within the time limit.
(f) The "Public Comment on Items Not on the Agenda" portion of the Commission meeting agenda will be reserved for public comments concerning agenda items that do not require Commission action, or general public comments concerning items not appearing on the meeting agenda. Time limits for speakers shall be no more than three minutes or as otherwise determined by the Chairman in accordance with this protocol.
(g) The Chairman shall encourage all prospective speakers to avoid repetitive statements, to submit written comments in lieu of speaking and to defer their time to representatives, in order to streamline the public comment process.
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Under the Robert's Rules of Order (Ninth Edition), the minutes of meeting are a synopsis of what was done at a meeting. Minutes are not meant to be a transcription of all that was said at a meeting. Minutes are prepared by the Commission Secretary who shall perform the duty impartially.
The Sunshine Law requires that minutes of a meeting of a commission be promptly recorded and open to public inspection. The adoption of the minutes, including any corrections, must be done in a properly noticed open meeting. The term "open to public inspection" in the Sunshine Law has not been clearly defined. However, it could be expected that the term public inspection could be interpreted to mean that the public has the right to make public comments on the minutes at the open meeting. Nevertheless, such public comment does not have to be received at the time the minutes are discussed or adopted, but can be appropriately provided at some other point of the meeting, such as, at "Presentations from the Public." Because the minutes of the Commission meetings are prepared by the Commission Secretary, it is unnecessary for the commission to engage in debate about a proposed correction or amendment until the Commission Secretary and Executive Director have had the opportunity to review any proposed corrections or amendments to the minutes. In this review, the responsibility of the Commission Secretary is to make sure the minutes accurately reflect what was done; this does not mean the minute must contain a record of everything that was said, or someone's version of what was said. Public suggestion to augment (as opposes to correct) the minute should, in general, be rejected: minutes should reflect only the secretary's unbiased account of what was done. However, if a member of the public wishes to offer a correction of the minutes, they may do so in writing and this request shall be referred to the Commission Secretary for review.
Thus, under Florida law, the need to receive and consider public comment may be balanced with the equally important need for orderly meetings with full deliberation by Commissioners.
(7) Disruption of Commission meetings
(a) The following statement should be read aloud by the Chairman prior to the start of a meeting if there is reason to believe persons in attendance may attempt to disrupt the meeting.
"THIS IS A PUBLIC MEETING OF THE FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION. AS SUCH, ALL MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ARE INVITED TO ATTEND AND EXPRESS THEIR OPINIONS. THE COMMISSION IS AUTHORIZED TO ENACT REASONABLE POLICIES TO ENSURE THE ORDERLY CONDUCT OF THIS MEETING. ACCORDINGLY, ANY PERSON WHOSE SPEECH OR CONDUCT DISRUPTS THE BUSINESS OF THIS MEETING WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE."
(b) Disrupting the meeting is conduct or speech that prevents the Chairman from proceeding through the agenda at a normal pace or prevents other persons from expressing their views, such as speaking without being recognized.
(c) The content of what someone says, or the words used, are normally protected by the United States and Florida Constitutions. However, if the words used call for illegal conduct or have a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom they are directed, the speech is not protected and the person should be asked to refrain from making such comments and if the speaker refused to refrain, he or she should be asked to leave the meeting or be removed.
(d) The use of profanity is not grounds to ask someone to leave. The use of profanity may very well be part of the overall disruptive behavior by someone, in which case he may be asked to leave.
(e) If someone continues disruptive behavior and refuses the Chairman's request to stop or to leave the meeting room, the Chairman has several options:
1. The Chairman may suspend the meeting indefinitely or terminate the meeting altogether (terminating the meeting may be a viable option at the workshop wherein no official actions are taken).
2. The Chairman may direct that the defiant person or persons who persist in disruptive conduct be removed from the meeting room by a law enforcement officer (but not a FWC officer). Normally, the person should not be arrested unless he or she actually struck someone and that person wishes to press charges.
NOTE: Generally, protestors wish to generate attention and media coverage, not cause a riot. For this reason, the Commission should avoid over-reaction which provides the protestors even more attention.
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(8) Complaints against Commission employees or Commissioners
If any speaker at a Commission workshop or meeting accuses a Commission employee of wrongdoing, the Chairman should immediately, without further inquiry or fact-finding, refer the matter to the Executive Director for an appropriate investigation by the Inspector General. If any speaker verbally attacks or shows disrespect to a Commissioner at a workshop or meeting, the Chairman may find such conduct to be out of order and, if so found, must advise the speaker to refrain from such comments or else forfeit his privilege to speak. (If the speaker refuses to abide by the Chairman's request, the Chairman may take action in accordance with Paragraph Six (6) of this memorandum on Disruption of Meetings). If a speaker complains about conduct or behavior of a Commissioner, which may constitute nonfeasance, misfeasance or malfeasance in office, the Chairman should advise the speaker to direct the complaint to the Governor's Office for further investigation.
(9) Floor Amendments to rules that significantly differ or conflict with staff recommended action
In the event that a motion is made at a Commission meeting that differs or conflicts significantly from staff recommended action on a rule, the Chairman should, in consultation with the Executive Director, direct appropriate staff to assess and report on the consequences of such proposed action prior to a final vote on the matter.