Arundel council cracks down on off-topic testimony

The Anne Arundel County Council has adopted new rules for its meetings, including measures to crack down on people who go off-topic when they testify.

The changes were vehemently opposed by a handful of residents who regularly attend meetings and testify on multiple topics.

Karen Delimater, who was removed from a County Council meeting in 2012 for going over the time limit while testifying, said the new rules are a "subterfuge" to citizens' First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.

Her brother, Joseph Delimater, objected to a rule requiring speakers to give their name and address before testifying. He said citizens shouldn't be forced to give their name in order to speak at a government meeting.

"This is tyranny. This is something you would see in communist Russia," he said.

Millard Snowden of Glen Burnie said he thinks there should be a check on the County Council chairman's ability to decide whether a speaker's remarks are relevant to the topic at hand.

What if, for example, the chairman has a grudge or political disagreement with the person testifying? In that case, Snowden suggested another council member should be able to object to cutting off a speaker, "if it is legitimate."

Less controversial changes included allowing the recording of meetings as long as it is not a distraction; banning signs and banners in the audience and clarifying that a bill can be withdrawn by its sponsor.

The County Council unanimously adopted the new rules without discussion at its Sept. 16 meeting.

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