DeKALB – The right for all DeKalb residents to speak out during City Council meetings is something DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith will continue to defend.
Recent meetings, however, have Smith considering how he should address personal remarks made toward others during public common portions of meetings.
Smith said these criticisms were obvious at the council’s Aug. 14 meeting.
During public comment about a discussion regarding changes to Freedom of Information Act requests to the city, residents called the conduct of management analyst Aaron Stevens when processing requests “out of line” and said they showed a “lack of respect.”
Smith said that by allowing these personal remarks to be made and without any attempt to halt them or comment on their inappropriateness, he sent the wrong message to residents and city staff.
“While I feel strongly about allowing all of our citizens to speak their mind, I also realize that public meetings like this are not the venue during which personal criticism of anyone, regardless of who they are, should be tolerated,” Smith said.
In response, Smith said he will continue to be tolerant of public comment before using the gavel to maintain order, but if comments become personal, he will not hesitate to bring them to a halt.
Smith recommended addressing a problem with a neighbor, city staff member or anyone else face to face. If the complaint is with a city staffer and discussing it with them doesn’t work, it’s appropriate to reach out to a supervisor or department head, he said.
“Finally, if you still feel the problem hasn’t been resolved, call the mayor,” Smith said. “Because, folks, the buck truly stops here.”