MEMBERS of the community who choose to speak at Bathurst Regional Council's public forums may not realise they are bound by the same rules as councillors and council staff.
Public forum, formerly known as public question time, is held once a month, prior to the start of each ordinary meeting of council.
Each person has five minutes to speak, with the possibility of time being extended at the discretion of the mayor.
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Council's general manager, David Sherley said that "public forum is an opportunity where members of the public can raise issues with the council that may be impacting themselves or the community".
While speakers can talk on almost any topic they like, their comments must be directed to the mayor and not anyone else.
Potentially, the mayor or senior council staff will respond to questions from the public, but councillors aren't to engage with the speakers.
Mr Sherley also noted that members of the public, not just councillors and council staff, must abide by the Code of Meeting Practice, and all other relevant council codes, policies and procedures.
Copies of these documents are on council's website.
"People who attend the public forum are expected to maintain the same level of behaviour as is expected of councillors and staff in attendance at the meeting, that includes treating people with respect," Mr Sherley said.
Speakers must refrain from engaging in disorderly conduct, publicly alleging breaches of the council's code of conduct or making other potentially defamatory statements.
Mr Sherley said there can be ramifications if people don't behave in accordance with the codes.
"The mayor would control the meeting and where he or she deemed it appropriate would ask the person to refrain from making those comments, potentially apologise, or ask them to stop speaking," he said.
The Code of Meeting Practice also prohibits nominated candidates for elections, be it local, state or federal, from speaking at public forum.
This is important to note given the local government election for Bathurst is just months away.
Mr Sherley said that if council is aware that someone trying to speak is a nominated candidate, they will be asked to sit down.
He said anyone wishing to speak at public forum, whether a candidate or not, should familiarise themselves with the rules.
"I'd encourage anyone who is going to talk to the council to ensure that they're aware of the behaviours expected and not to engage in any disorderly conduct or anything that may defame or bring people or groups into disrepute," Mr Sherley said.
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