An Interesting Question

The City Commission adopted Resolution 9634, setting a 3-minute time limit on public comment at City Commission meetings. Notice that the Resolution itself does not contain a remedy for its violation.

Now, Section 1.04.070 provides that violation of the City Code is a misdemeanor, but I could not find any corresponding section rendering violation of a Resolution is criminal in nature or, for that matter, I could not find any remedy for violation of a Resolution.

Well, you say, doesn't a Resolution have force of law? I don't know that they do. MCA Section 7-5-109 provides remedies for violation of an ordinance, but I can't find such a provision for Resolutions. See, generally, MCA Secs. 7-5-121, 7-5-122, and 7-5-123.

So, if we assume that Resolutions don't carry that force, is it proper for a governmental official to require an employee to forcibly require compliance with a Resolution? For example, if the Department of Interior refuses to recognize the Little Shell Tribe, can we have him arrested if he every shows his face in this town? If a shopkeeper in the Business Improvement District fails to pay their assessment, can a City Commissioner order a city employee to restrain the shopkeeper's liberty?

So, then, what is the legal basis to order someone forcibly removed from a City Commission meeting?


Anonymous said...

"-period of the City Commission Agenda shall be limited to three minutes unless specially
authorized to exceed such limit by the Mayor with the concurrence of the City Commission"

The commission body were never given consideration to authorize extra time. The mayor was flying solo at this point.

Anonymous said...

I may be mistaken but I do not believe that a resolution in itself has the force of law. Ordinances do. Resolutions (at least typically) do not.

There are certain statutory processes that require the passage of a resolution by the governing body in order to lawfully proceed with certain actions. For example, in order to lawfully assess certain tax assessments, a "resolution" is passed as part of the statutorily outlined process involved in assessing and imposing special tax assessments. In other words, Resolutions are often a statutorily required step in a process that local governments must follow in order to lawfully engage in certain actions. They are a mechanism of following public law and policy.

However, City Commissions and/or County Commissions have no authority to just arbitrarily pass a resolution that has the force and authority of actual law unless there is a specific statute that states that the duly adopted resolution has that authority. (such as imposing some county speed and/or weight limits on county roads)

I am not a lawyer, and therefore cannot say with absolute certaintly, but I do not believe there is an actual statute that says violating a resolution imposing a three minute public comment limit is punishable by law.

Ordinances, if correctly adopted according to the statutory process for adopting them, have some legal authority and people can be cited for violating lawfully adopted ordinances. But typically, not resolutions.

Is the city imposing the three minute rule by resolution or ordinance? If by resolution, then I suppose the "crime" should have been based upon along the line of public nuisance, or disturbance or something rather than violation of this stupid three minute rule.(and I think that in these circumstances, arresting this woman on those grounds is a huge stretch). This woman should not have been arrested for "breaking the three minute limit." And arresting her under some sort of criminal code along the line of some sort of disturbance or whatever was very extreme in my opinion. In fact, it frightens me!

Anonymous said...

And lest we forget, the REAL reason for the three minute rule in the FIRST place was simply to stifle free speech and dissent. In other words, democracy itself. So, the only question then became just HOW long a concerned citizenry living under such restrictions and constraints would tolerate it before they fought back. And I guess we found out. Anyone who has followed these issues for a while has seen the slow deterioration of the process, and the increased use of undemocratic methods. First, no vote. (council violated their OWN rules) Then, the imposition of a three minute rule. Then, using our OWN police dept. against us to forcibly remove anyone who violates that rule. Then, anyone who is "not on point", according to mayordonna's definition of being on point, is asked to be quiet (actually SHUT UP has been used), or the threat of removal is used. THESE methods are what's making people so angry. They feel, correctly so, that the people of Great Falls, the people that will ultimately SUFFER the health and economic effects of this polluting monstrosity of a boondoggle power plant, have been effectively taken out of the process. And they realize that THAT ain't how it's supposed to work! Hey, we are NOT talking here simply about Susan Overfield. We are talking also about DOCTORS not allowed to testify about the health effects! CPAs who have questions about where the money went! College professors who want answers regarding the location of the plant and the violation of historic routes! Farmers concerned about the value of their land! Various energy experts about global warming and alternative energy. And ordinary CITIZENS concerned about their health AND their pocketbooks! The question everyone has is WHY? Why has this happened, and what is the remedy? And how can we change all this and get the PUBLIC back in our democracy? I think that the arrest of Susan could be a catalyst for change. It could be the start of getting the process back to the people. POWER TO THE PEOPLE...............and to hell with the power plant!


Anonymous said...

RE: The commission body were never given consideration to authorize extra time.

It continues to bother me that no one stood up in opposition to Ms. Stebbins extreme decision to silence Ms. Overfield. Thanks for pointing that out.

When Ms. Stebbins forced Ms. Overfield to stop speaking about alleged improprieties in the bidding process it appears she was able to use Ms. Overfield's temperament to deflect attention from city connections influencing the $330 thousand GFPD bid.