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Kent County Board of Commissioners limit the public from a public meeting


Last Thursday, the Kent County Board of Commissioners asked residents who had come for public comment to sit in a room next door and watch the meeting on closed circuit TV. 

Commissioner Jim Talen spoke up on his disapproval during the meeting and sat on the side of the audience during the rest of the meeting.  


“I am deeply, deeply disturbed by the process that you chose to put into place this morning to control public access to our public meeting.” 


According to Board Chair Jim Saalfeld, the meeting was done in this way to prevent residents from disrupting the meetings.  


“General public may observe from the adjacent room 311 on a live video audio feed. Any member of the public that wishes to address the board during either public comment period may do so by filling out a card, giving the card to our staff in 311, and they will give the card to me. Speakers will be invited into the chamber one at a time.” 


Saalfeld said this new format protects the public from arrests. 


"I have been involved in local government for decades and I have never seen anything that comes close to your limitation, this was not a choice of this board, limitation of public access to this meeting. For the record, I don’t support it. I don’t understand why, and I hope we don’t continue it.” 


In the last three months, 3 out of 5 Kent County Board of Commission public meetings have been cancelled because Kent County residents have spoken up and interrupted to protest the county’s contract with ICE. 


Michelle Jokisch Polo, for WGVU News. 

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