Incoming Chairman of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) Mike Kelly has announced changes to public access and comment in meetings, a move that a former rival says is “authoritarian” and “disgusting.”
After beginning his email to commissioners saying he looked forward to “learning, collaborating and serving our county residents,” Kelly announced the following changes to public participation in meetings, which do not require commission approval:
- No more livestreaming or recording of the public comment period at the beginning of the meetings.
Kelly claimed the county has received a warning from YouTube, which live streams the meetings and stores videos for public access, that its community guidelines were violated last year by a resident’s allegations, during public comment time, of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The chair-elect warned subsequent violations could lead to the county losing the YouTube channel.
Even if true, however, there are many free alternatives to YouTube, which is owned by left-leaning Google.
- The public will no longer be allowed a virtual option for comments during the beginning of the meeting, nor during a specific agenda item. Only comments delivered in person or in writing will be considered.
Kelly wrote that COVID-19 restrictions the past three years have eased, providing for safe, in-person participation. However, the virtual option with Zoom will still be available to commissioners, staff, and planning items applicants.
- Advance registration will now be required for public comments.
Registration can be made online or in person up to 10 minutes before the meeting begins.
Kelly concluded his message by asking members for their cooperation in restoring “a respectful tone and pace of BOCC meetings of which we can all be proud.”
Third District Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara, who lost the chairman’s race to Mike Kelly in November, blasted Kelly’s actions:
“I do not concur with your analysis that we other 6 District Commissioners should bow to your edicts. Shouldn’t the entire BOCC and the public have the opportunity to voice their opinion on these changes and then have a recorded vote of the entire commission on whether or not the BOCC should shut the good people of JOCO out of viewing and hearing the public comments portion of our meeting and additionally discontinuing the access for residents to use zoom to make comments to our board?
“This example of your authoritarian roughshod rule of kingship is disgusting.”
Kelly’s predecessor, Ed Eilert, was also a fan of restricting public comment.
The first meeting of the new BOCC was Thursday.