Maintaining Order and Safety at Meetings

BRANFORD - Making decisions in the town's best interest can often lead to contention during government meetings-not only among representatives doing their elected or appointed jobs, but among electors in the audience who beg to disagree.

In recent years in Branford, meetings of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) and its committees have sometimes suffered notable declines in decorum, to the point where some in the room apparently no longer feel safe or willing to express their opinion on a matter. Now, the RTM has officially adopted a resolution designed to help bolster the RTM's efforts to maintain order and safety at all RTM and RTM committee meetings.

At the heart of the resolution is the empowerment of the RTM moderator or RTM committee chairs to take "immediate lawful action against such persons who cause a disturbance or otherwise interfere with the proceedings of a meeting," according to the resolution.

RTM Majority Leader David Baker (D, District 2) has brought the idea of a decorum resolution to the RTM before. During a remarkably short (just 41 minutes in total) and notably non-contentious Nov. 14 RTM meeting, Baker brought the item up again, as "New Business" on the agenda.

Baker said this latest version of the resolution had been sent to all RTM members for review in advance of the Nov. 14 meeting.

"This particular copy was read by the chief of police of Branford and also by the state attorney to make sure the language was okay, and hopefully we're not doing any infringing on anybody," Baker noted.

The "Resolution to Maintain a Proper Environment for RTM Meetings" was read into the Nov. 14 RTM minutes by RTM Moderator Chris Sullivan (D, District 6) on behalf of Baker.

The resolution cites Connecticut State Statues and the Code of the Town of Branford regarding the obligation of an RTM moderator and all RTM committee chairs to maintain order during meetings and make sure everyone, including electors, has a fair opportunity to express his or her opinion. The resolution also points out that the RTM moderator and RTM committee chairs are additionally compelled to make every effort to maintain a "cordial, courteous, and safe environment."

In addition, the resolution states that, at the beginning of an RTM meeting or RTM committee meeting, the RTM moderator or committee chair will announce that the RTM has adopted a policy of decorum which means that any person or persons causing a disturbance may be asked to leave the meeting.

The resolution was adopted, without discussion, by a majority vote of both Democrat and Republican members present. A single vote against adopting the resolution was made by RTM member Beth Bryan Almeida (R, District 5).


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