Communication Builds Our Community

Gibson Proposes "Sergeant at Arms" to Monitor Public Comments at Lake Wales Commission Meetings

A proposal by Lake Wales Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson would appoint at "sergeant at arms" to monitor comments made by the public during city commission meetings.

Video of Gibson's remarks

During the commission's Wednesday agenda workshop Gibson cited what he called "personal attacks" that have "driven off good people" as his reasoning behind the proposal.

The city has suffered the resignation of several officials during the past two years, but most have simply returned to work at the city as "consultants" under contracts that reduce their time in the office.

"I have 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. thoughts," he said. "One of the things that bugs me is personal attacks, and I thought 'what can we do about that?' People treat that podium as if it's a meeting in the public square," he added.

News file photo

Lake Wales Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson, recently reelected to that post by his fellow commissioners, has proposed the use of a sergeant at arms during the public comment period at city commission meetings.

The topic of public speech before the commission has been highly controversial in the past. A prior proposal advanced by mayor Jack Hilligoss limited speakers to city residents, limited presentations to three minutes, required a pre-meeting registration, and would have required each speaker sign an oath to only speak the truth "under penalty of perjury."

That effort sparked a broad backlash and was eventually dropped except for the requirement of registering to speak prior to the opening gavel.

Gibson's suggestion is the first attempt to revisit the issue. People "talk about anything...politics, religion, stuff we don't have any jurisdiction over," he said, "and then come the personal attacks. I know we've driven some people off."

"The turmoil pains me," Gibson said. "Maybe there's something we can do about it," before describing his suggestion as "something off the wall." Gibson suggested that a sergeant at arms would "tap it" to point out that a personal attack was made, in a way that doesn't limit freedom of speech.

"There are consequences" to personal attacks " and "we're being harmed by it," Gibson said, promising to bring up the topic at the next regular commission meeting.


Reader Comments(1)

SallyMae writes:

Who will determine what constitutes a personal attack? This commissioner is suggesting censorship plain and clear. He constantly whines and wrings his hands about division within the community when the real division is between the community and the commission. Censorship will do nothing to ameliorate that challenge and if anything, it will just make it worse.