Civility and Decorum Policies


Request: What are some examples of a dignified discourse/anti-bullying/public engagement code of conduct-type of guide or policy?

Background: The goal of public meetings is to encourage discourse and engagement from our communities. It is important that we hear their voices and concerns to best serve them. However, it is also imperative that we maintain a respectful and productive environment that allows their voices to be heard. The City of Raleigh and the City of Salinas have shared their Civility and Decorum policies as an example of how to guide residents, staff, and council behavior at public meetings.

Summary of Findings:

Why a Code of Conduct is essential: It is important that all parties; residents, staff, and elected officials have a guideline for their actions. There should be a clear expectation of how everyone should interact with each other. It is important that everyone is on the same page and that rules are fairly enforced across all parties.

 City of Raleigh - Rules of Decorum for Public Comment

1. Each speaker is allocated 3 minutes to speak. The Mayor or presiding officer may, in their discretion, increase or decrease this time allocation. 

2. A speaker may not share or relinquish any remaining time they have not used to another speaker. 

3. Speakers are only allowed to speak one time during the Public Comment period. 

4. A person may speak only if they have signed up to speak in accordance with the City’s procedures. Speaker substitutions at the meeting are not allowed. 

5. Speakers shall refrain from personal attacks and/or threats directed towards City staff or members of the public. 

6. Speakers shall be civil and courteous in their language and presentation. Insults, profanity, use of vulgar language or gestures or other inappropriate behavior are not allowed. 

7. Comments, questions, or jeering from the audience are not allowed. Speakers shall likewise not address or respond to members of the audience. 

8. Speakers should not expect Council members to comment on or respond to their comments directly during the meeting. The Mayor, or presiding officer may, however, request the City Manager’s office to follow up with a speaker after the meeting or provide additional information to the Council at a later date. 

9. The Mayor, or presiding officer, has the authority to enforce the Rules of Decorum. Failure to obey these Rules may result in the forfeiture of the remaining speaking time. Individuals who engage in egregious or repeated violations may be asked to leave the meeting. Speakers and members of the audience should also note the following Raleigh City Code provision and North Carolina General Statute: 

Raleigh City Code Sec. 1-1034. – Enforcement of Decorum Requirements

Any person who violates the order and decorum of a Council meeting shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. 

N.C. Gen. Stat.§ 143-318.17. - Disruptions of official meetings. 

A person who willfully interrupts, disturbs, or disrupts an official meeting and who, upon being directed to leave the meeting by the presiding officer, willfully refuses to leave the meeting is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. 

City of Salinas – General Summary of Rules of Procedure and Order of Business

Full version:

Norms & Expectations

  1. Fair and equal treatment of all persons, claims, and transactions before the council
  2. Attending council meetings is a duty for council members

General Conduct

  1. Make the public feel welcome
  2. Treat each other, staff, and members of the public with dignity, courtesy, and respect, valuing all opinions and being tolerant of new and different ideas while encouraging creativity and innovation.
  3. Avoid negative comments that could offend other council members during public meetings, in the media, other times
  4. Follow through on commitments and be accountable to each other including the commitment  to start and end on time, work from agenda, be prepared
  5. Keep comments clear, concise, on-topic
  6. Continuously strive to improve how members work as a team
  7. Place clear and realistic demands on staff resources and time when requesting action
  8. At all times be in compliance with all state and locally-mandated ethics and reporting requirements.
  9. Respect limitations placed on the use of city seal and logo

Conduct During Meetings:

  1. Treat each other and everyone with courtesy and refrain from inappropriate behavior and derogatory
  2. Inform the Mayor of their desire to speak and be acknowledged by the Mayor before speaking
  3. Work together to preserve order and decorum during meetings
  4. Not delay or interrupt the proceedings or the peace of the city council, nor disturb any Council Member while speaking, by conversation or otherwise
  5. Build consensus through dialogue

Conduct with City Manager and Staff:

  1. Respect and adhere to the City’s form of gov.
  2. Speak directly to the city manager on issues and concerns in order for the matter to be directed to appropriate staff
  3. Direct the City Manager the City Council’s policy decisions through the administrative functions of the city
  4. Treat staff professionally and refrain from publicly criticizing employees
  5. Avoid involvement in personnel issues
  6. Discuss directly with City Manager or City Attorney, as appropriate, any displeasure with a staff member
  7. Requests answers to questions on City Council agenda items for the city manager, attorney, finance director

City Council Agenda

  1. Comments should be made in an orderly manner, and not make personal, slanderous or profane marks to any member of the City Council, staff, or public. No loud, threatening, personal or abusive language, or engages in other disorderly conduct which disrupts, or impedes the orderly conduct of a Council Meeting.
  2. NO Flash photography
  3. Signs and placards, can not block the view of others
  4. Standing or sitting on the ramp leading up the dais, only staff
  5. Lobby, can’t congregate in the lobby area
  6. No Food and drink, water only

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