ACLU Threatens Legal Action Over Changes to O.C. Board Meetings

Recent changes made to Board of Supervisors meetings in Orange County are unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a strongly-worded letter to county leaders Monday. The civil rights advocacy group is now threatening to sue the county if it doesn’t reverse a three-minute limit recently imposed on speakers who offer public comment at the beginning of each meeting.

“It's clear to us that the O.C. Board of Supervisors must immediately begin the process of rescinding and replacing these illegal policies and practices, and fundamentally change its approach to the community it purports to serve,” ACLU attorney Brenda Hamme wrote in the letter to the Board. “Otherwise, the ACLU SoCal will be forced to consider legal steps.”

The changes were approved in a 4-1 vote in November for the sake of efficiency. The Board was prompted by a handful of gadflies who spoke excessively on every item and at nearly every single meeting, making a “mockery” of the process in Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s words.

In addition to the three-minute limit, the Board’s chairperson now has the ability to limit comment even further if more than seven people decide to speak. The changes place undue limitations on the public’s right to comment, according to the ACLU.

County lawyers are currently reviewing the contents of the letter.