What Are Robert’s Rules of Order for Public Comment?

Robert’s Rules of Order Public Comment / Robert’s Rules of Order Public Comments

Robert’s Rules of Order guides the practices and principles for conducting public meetings. Government bodies, councils and municipalities, often allow non-board members to attend meetings. However, they cannot participate unless the board stipulates a specific time slot. This article explains the guidance in Robert’s Rules of Order for public comment. 

Purpose of public comment

Public comment in open meetings serves the following purposes:

  • Allows the public to address the local governing body directly, communicating their concerns, opinions and suggestions to the decision-makers.
  • Gives citizens a voice in proceedings of their governing body.
  • Allows governing officials to hear diverse perspectives, informing their decision making and improving local governance.
  • Provides a forum where citizens can question and critique those in power, holding them accountable for their actions and decisions.
  • Promotes openness and transparency in decision-making, improving trust between the governing body and the community.

Key rules

To ensure insightful and focused discussions, it’s important to implement the following rules:

Time limits

Allot a time slot for public comment to ensure efficient use of meeting time. The board may reserve the right to end public discussion at its discretion.

Sign-up procedures

Establish a method for citizens to sign up in advance to speak during the public comment section of the meeting. This helps keep proceedings orderly.

Rules of decorum

It’s important to ensure that all public comment is directed to the chair or presiding officer, not the audience. All participants must adhere to proper meeting etiquette to uphold civility.

Maintaining order

The chair or presiding officer must ensure that order is maintained throughout the proceedings. They must enforce the board’s established meeting rules to manage the public comment session.

Implementing public comment in meetings

  • Add it to the agenda: Include public comment as a regular agenda item to ensure clarity on when citizens can address the board.
  • Ensure accessibility to all citizens: Information on public comment procedures should be readily available. Accommodate remote participation when possible to facilitate broader citizen engagement.
  • Record, collect and review public comments: Authorise the secretary to record and compile public comments to be reviewed by the governing body. Factoring in all voices ensures informed decision-making.
  • Establish clear guidelines: Provide clear instructions to the public on how to participate in the public comment session. This includes information on time limits and sign-up procedures.
  • Allocate sufficient time: Allot an adequate amount of time for public comment. Factor in the number of expected speakers and topic complexity.
  • Encourage diverse perspectives: Implement outreach efforts to engage underrepresented groups and encourage participation from all community members. Offer translation services if needed.


  • Handling disruptions: Establish clear protocols to address disruptions during public comment sessions. The presiding officer must balance maintaining order with respecting the right to free speech.
  • Ensuring constructive dialogue: Encourage speakers to focus on issues highlighted in the agenda and use respectful language. Publicise these guidelines before and during the meeting to ensure productive discussions.

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