Given the recent events worldwide this week and some events at City Council meetings throughout California, Mike Maurer (City Attorney) and City Manager thought this information would be beneficial:
There have been a number of recent incidents at city council meetings throughout the state where speakers have used the public comment portion of the agenda to make anti-Semitic and other reprehensible statements. It appears that they have been limited to jurisdictions that receive public comments online or over the phone, but the City Council should be prepared that speakers at public comment may say things that are unpleasant, or worse.
In general, the Brown Act requires city councils to accept public comments on any subject that is within the jurisdiction of the City, which is a very broad standard. The Brown Act also specifically allows comments that are critical of city officials and staff, but it does allow for removal of any persons causing an “actual disruption,” making violent threats, or engaging in actual violence.
However, speech at a city council meeting is also subject to constitutional protection under the First Amendment, and the City cannot regulate speech based on viewpoint even if the viewpoint is despicable or off-base. Criticism, profanity and even hate speech are subject to constitutional protection. If an incident occurs, legal counsel may have to advise the Mayor to allow the speech to continue. Afterword, the Council Members may choose to combat speech with more speech. You can state that the views presented do not represent the views of the City or the Council, you can dispute any facts, and you can publicly disagree with or condemn any statements.