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CA 'speak-out' policy might be reviewed


A Columbia Association panel will decide this week whether a committee needs to review the decision by the board of directors last month in which the 10-member panel denied nonresidents the chance to speak during a "resident speak-out" portion of a meeting.

Barbara Russell, board member representing Oakland Mills, asked members at Thursday's meeting to reconsider their decision in an effort to establish a formal policy for who can participate in the speak-out sessions. Instead of adding it to that evening's agenda, the board sent the issue to the governance committee, the panel that delegates committee agendas.

The panel, which will meet Tuesday, could send the matter to a review committee, which would rule whether the decision was illegal.

Diane McDonald, chairwoman of the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee of Pediatrics Emergency Medicine, was told by Tom O'Connor, the board chairman, that she could not speak because she is not a resident of Columbia. By majority vote, the board approved the ban, saying the "speak-out" portion of the agenda is specifically for residents. McDonald, of Ellicott City, wanted to speak as an advocate for fencing the Lake Elkhorn tot lot. Another nonresident was denied the chance to speak on a different topic.

The Columbia Association board historically has allowed nonresidents to speak during the "speak-out" sessions.

O'Connor declined to comment Friday on last month's decision. No nonresidents attended Thursday's board meeting.

"It's a good thing that [the issue] is going to get discussed," Russell said. "We need to decide whether we are going to be truly open as we say we are, or are we going to deny people from speaking at our meetings, which we have never done before."

The Columbia Association Governance Committee will hold its meeting at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Columbia Association headquarters, 10221 Wincopin Circle.

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