Iowa City City Council unanimously adopts adjusted meeting protocols

The newly-adopted rules include alterations from previous drafts, placing less restrictions on public comment and decreased penalties for violators.


Gabby Drees

City attorney Eric Goercs speaks at an Iowa City City Council meeting at the Senior Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.

Emily Delgado and Ryan Hansen

The Iowa City City Council unanimously approved updated meeting protocols, removing redundancies from the rules and clearly outlining the council’s idea of how its meetings should be conducted, on Tuesday.

The new set of rules is in alignment with Iowa State Code and Iowa City Charter and outlines meeting order, meeting conduct, and public participation.

The council’s vote will be repealing seven resolutions, including ones that:

  • Adopt a policy addressing council members serving on city funded board agencies
  • Establishment of city council meeting, time and place
  • A policy addressing the absence of council member
  • Establishment of procedure of calling a special council meeting
  • Establishment of policy regarding virtual attendance of council meetings
  • A policy addressing potential appointment of council members’s spouses or current members serving on city commission and boards
  • Establishment of the order of city council meetings

Over the past few months, councilors discussed changes to enumerated protocols restricting the message of particular speech, removing resolutions aimed at fining or criminally charging rule-violators during the public comment section.

“The whole point of this process is to put those all in a single place for both the public to be able to see and you’d be able to see,” Iowa City City Attorney Eric Goers. “So, you have a single place to view all the rules.”

Mayor Bruce Teague said the council would continue to refrain from addressing questions from public commenters. Under the new rules, the council has the right to defer the question to city staff after the commenter has left the podium.

Teague implored commenters to indicate on the commenter sign-in sheet in the case they would like to follow up with members of council outside of the formal meeting time.

“That’d be something we’d routinely provide,” Teague said. “We can follow up with people and have really a more engaged opportunity to have a discussion.”

Teague said it was important to continue to work with the public but the council needed to continue to balance business and public engagement.

RELATED: Iowa City City Council nears rule change for public comment period

One of the rules apart from the new council rules will allow for the presiding officer, which depending on the meeting will be the mayor, to increase or decrease the 3 minute speaking allotment for public comment for some speakers, including those who require a translator.

“The presiding officer has the ability to offer additional time if needed,” Goers said. “That would include the possibility of a need for translation.

The rules also address public commenters who do not comply with the updated provisions would face less severe sanctions than in the first drafts.

Disciplinary actions include a verbal warning upon the first violation, escalating to a failure to be recognized to speak for the remainder of the meeting, direction to leave the meeting, and suspension of attendance of council meetings.

Previous drafts would have resulted in criminal charges for violations, but comments from the councilors at previous meetings and revisions from the city attorney removed the potential for criminal charges and municipal infractions.

Despite the council’s change in public participation Teague emphasizes the council’s need to interact with the community.

“I think it’s very important for this council to really consider the ways that we can still answer the public,” Teague said.