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Are public comment periods too risky for Utah's local governments?
Slander suits » Litigation over exercise of free speech could sap taxpayer dollars.

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"Public comment is a great feature," Hunt said, noting that the democratic process involves robust speech and even sharp, meddlesome words at times. "If anything, they should consider more."

Brigham City Mayor Dennis Fife received his share of harsh critique after confessing to an extramarital affair last fall. Even so, Fife said that anyone should be given the opportunity to say what they want, and that broader participation is better.

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"People are not involved enough," Fife said.

On Thursday, as part of routine recodification, Brigham City’s council unanimously voted to retain public comment periods that allow free expression but ban personal attacks. The council will hold a public hearing Sept. 19 to get feedback.

Brent Gardner, executive director for the Utah Association of Counties, said there have been incidents that raised liability concerns, but he’s not aware of any lawsuits arising from public comments.

"We’re trying to determine what controls officials should start looking at," Gardner said.


twitter: @catmck

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