- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mayor Randy Brown of Evesham Township, New Jersey, has banned the public from asking questions at council meetings.

The Republican mayor, who is also the kicking coach for the Baltimore Ravens, began the policy this year after he got into a heated argument at a December meeting, in which an 81-year-old man said he was “acting like a jerk,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Since then, the council has reportedly only allowed public comments, not questions, at meetings. A local NBC affiliate reported a brief update Tuesday that said Mr. Brown has reversed the decision and will allow questions at meetings from now on.

The policy angered residents and sparked concern from government watchdog groups.

John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, told The Inquirer that local elected officials must allow the public time to ask questions, but they also have the right to “just sit there” in silence.

“The check and balance is when they go to get re-elected,” Mr. Paff told the paper. “When citizens take the time to come out and ask questions, and you ignore them, the citizens can exercise their opinion at the polls. We’re supposed to elect people who treat us as human beings, not just serfs.”

Mr. Brown, who has expressed an interest in running for governor in 2017, argued that public comments at Evesham council meetings come “only from five or six” political opponents who are “trying to stoke me into an argument.”

They “try to turn it into the Spanish Inquisition,” the mayor said.

Mr. Brown said most residents ask him questions in other settings anyway, like on the football field or at the supermarket, The Inquirer reported.

 

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