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Wasatch County weighs creating public comment policy after Midway meeting hate speech incident

The Wasatch County administration building in Heber City.
Rob Winder
The Wasatch County administration building in Heber City.

The Wasatch County Council may adopt a public comment policy after hate speech hijacked a Midway council meeting earlier this year.

During a work session Wednesday, the Wasatch County Council discussed whether to create a public comment policy.

In the wake of an incident at a February Midway City Council meeting when virtual attendees made racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LDS comments, county manager Dustin Grabau said he came up with a list of comment policy ideas based on other local entities’ guidelines.

“As I work with the attorney’s office on a potential policy, I wanted to get your input on a few items,” he told the council.

Options the council discussed included whether to require members of the public to list their addresses before commenting, what time limit to set on public comment and whether virtual comments should be permitted.

As far as putting certain requirements on the topic of comments, Grabau said that’s a more sensitive issue.

“We cannot limit comments based on their content of communication – if we’re picking and choosing, ‘We like what you’re saying,’ ‘We don’t like what you’re saying,’” he said. “What we can do, though, is limit it in these broad categories if someone is making a comment that’s not relevant, not under our jurisdiction.”

That approach would give the council some leeway to stop hateful comments like the ones Midway encountered.

The discussion was about the public comment policy for regular meetings, not for public hearings about specific topics.

Councilmember Luke Searle said he wanted the public to understand the intent of any new policy.

“The media would love to just say that we’re trying to limit things, when I think we’re just trying to create some structure and evenhandedness,” he said.

Councilmember Spencer Park agreed.

“I think we’re a fan of three-hour public comments if it’s needed,” he said. “I just think we don’t want it to happen, what happened in Midway.”

Grabau will now work with the attorney’s office to draft a public comment policy for the council to consider.

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