County alters agenda, public comment offered at start of meetings

Those who attend Sussex County Council meetings will now have the opportunity to speak to council at the beginning of the meeting.

After receiving complaints from citizens, along with a complaint filled by Greenwood resident Dan Kramer with the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, contending that the Sussex County Council had violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by allegedly listing an agenda item, “Additional Business,” out of the order listed in its internal Rules of Procedure, the council voted this week to change the order of the agenda.

Kramer’s complaint was filed in October, after an August council meeting where “Additional Business,” a time when the public is allowed to give comment, changed from before “Executive Session” to after “Executive Session.”

“Some people complained about that,” said Council President Michael Vincent, adding that their rationale was to give the public the opportunity to speak on everything, including Executive Session items.

“We got some public comment that they didn’t think they thought that was the right place to put it. Another comment we heard was if people come to county council meting they have no idea when they’re going to be on the agenda to speak to council. As you know, it can last a half hour to three hours.”

The council voted unanimously to alter its Rules of Procedure, by changing the terminology “Additions to Agenda” to read “Amendments to Agenda,” as well as inserting public comment at the beginning of each agenda.

“If you take off work, you can come in say what you’ve got to say. If you’re out of work it won’t take three or four hours to do that,” explained Vincent. “We’re going to try that, I think it makes common sense. Obviously it’s not cast in stone. If we need to modify something we’ll do that down the road.”

“It’s important to get public input and be respectful of their time,” added Councilman Rob Arlett.