Angered by a man's repeated criticism that extended their meeting by an hour last month, Orange County supervisors on Tuesday changed their rules on public comments during meetings.
Last month, board Chairman John Moorlach tried to change the rules to limit public comments as a result of the haranguing from Michael Klubnikin, but the motion was shot down 3-2.
But at the board's next meeting Nov. 20, Klubnikin put in requests to speak on 19 items on the agenda and used his three minutes apiece to rail against county government.
Supervisor Bill Campbell, who had spoken out against Moorlach's proposal, changed his mind after Klubnikin's marathon criticism, which extended the meeting by nearly an hour.
The supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to change the rules, with Supervisor
Janet Nguyen dissenting.
Klubnikin has been a frequent critic of the board, contending, among other
things, that the Orange County Public Guardian's Office improperly involved
itself in his family's trust and the sale of the family's rental home in Morro
Bay was made for less than fair market value.
County officials asked the Internal Audit Department to review Klubnikin's complaints and found them all without merit. The home his mother was living in fell into foreclosure, and an Orange County Superior Court judge removed him as the trustee of the family's trust.
The home sold for more than previously appraised because the buyers made many improvements to the property, which was described as being in major disrepair beforehand, the audit showed.
"With apologies to Mel Gibson, you can take our lives, you can take our
children, but you can't take our freedom,'' Klubnikin told the supervisors
before they voted for the rules change.
"If you guys in any way, shape or form touch this ... it will be interpreted by the public, media and the feds that you're trying to get away with something,'' Klubnikin said. "This will go over as well as a turd in a punch bowl.''
Klubnikin indicated that future meetings will see more critics.
"They will, in turn, pick up the slack, because that's how America works,'' Klubnikin said.
Moorlach initially proposed limiting the public to commenting on three
agenda items with a time limit of three minutes.
County Counsel Nick Chrisos, however, advised the supervisors that proposal could invite legal challenges and suggested just a time limit.
Public speakers can now have a total of nine minutes to comment on the
board's business and may address as many items on the agenda within that time frame as they wish.
Moorlach mocked Klubnikin, quoting from comments he made at the last
meeting, "I'm getting tired of coming up here and saying the same thing over and over,'' as well as, "I'm sorry for wasting your time.''
Moorlach said he was aiming to "run an orderly meeting.''
Campbell objected last month because he feared the new rules would
affect Darrell Nolta, another frequent critic Campbell has praised for
occasionally raising questions that have changed the supervisor's mind on
"The other individual pulled 19 items, he did not do what you do,'' Campbell told Nolta. "He just blathered on and reiterated those items, giving no benefit to us to help us make good policy decisions, which I think you do. I'm sorry it will restrict your efforts.''
Campbell characterized Klubnikin's display last month as "in your face.''
Referring to Klubnikin's beef with county officials, Campbell added, "He has a complaint ... with the court of California, not with this board. He's trying to leverage that because there was a period of time the public administrator was involved with that ... The judge won't listen to him any more, so he comes here.''
Later in the meeting, Campbell blasted Klubnikin for encouraging the
family of an Irvine man to appeal to the county board to intervene in the
family's dispute with county officials. The man was taken from the family's
Irvine apartment this summer and put in a psychiatric hospital while his
parents were charged with misdemeanors for alleged neglect.
"I saw you do what I consider abuse of your mother when you brought her
in here'' in feeble condition, Campbell told Klubnikin. "Now you're trying
to do the same thing to this family. You should be ashamed of yourself.''
Terry Francke, of the watchdog group Californians Aware, said the board's changes in the rules appeared legal.
The Brown Act "allows local bodies to set reasonable limits on either
the overall time for all citizen comment or individual citizen comment,''
Francke said. "So long as it's neutral and universally applicable, then any
local board or council can limit the total amount of time that a speaker gets in a meeting.''
--City News Service