Brautigam e-mails Council about Seth Brigham incident

Text of Hotline message from Tuesday

| Feb 24, 2010

The following communication was sent from City Manager Jane Brautigam to the City’s hotline for official communication shortly before noon Tuesday.

The telling passages would appear to be two:

  • The ones noting that instructions to the police officer present to remove Brigham came not from Mayor Osborne but originated from Council Member George Karakehian; and
  • The one indicating the noises made on a microphone apparently intended to drown out Seth Brigham’s talking came from Council Member Ken Wilson.

Both Karakehian and Wilson are part of what is generally regarded as the relatively “conservative” faction of the Council.


From:
To: bouldercouncilhotline@list.ci.boulder.co.us
Date: Tue, 23 Feb 2010 11:57:23 -0700
Subject: [bouldercouncilhotline] Hotline: Staff Report regarding February 16, 2010 Council Meeting

Sender: Brautigam, Jane

STAFF REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING FEBRUARY 16, 2010 CITY COUNCIL MEETING

Several questions have arisen regarding conduct at the City Council meeting of February 16, 2010. The following describes the occurrence as reviewed by City staff members in answer to the questions that have been raised.

WHAT HAPPENED

PRIOR TO START OF FEBRUARY 16, 2010 CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING

* Seth Brigham arrived at the Municipal Building and signed up through the normal process to speak during public participation. On the form, Mr. Brigham indicated the subject as “Sometimes, even Council Members must have to stand naked!”. Based upon the order of his sign up, he was the first speaker scheduled for public participation.
* Mr. Brigham made it known to staff and those present at the time of sign up that he was going to remove his clothes down to his boxer underwear when addressing Council.
* Staff and Council members who were in the employee lunch room (2nd floor room adjacent to Council Chambers where dinner is offered) were informed of Mr. Brigham’s stated intentions.
* In response, staff reviewed with Channel 8 the protocol that was developed in advance of the first reading of the proposed Public Nudity ordinance that Channel 8 camera shots of public speakers during public participation who may disrobe were to be tight focused on the speakers face.
* A staff member informed Mr. Brigham in advance of the start of the meeting of the protocol developed for members of the public who were disrobed at the podium.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PORTION OF FEBRUARY 16, 2010 REGULAR MEETING

Seth Brigham was the first speaker during the public participation component of the Feb. 16 Council meeting. Mr. Brigham had previously removed his clothing down to his boxer underwear and was seated in the front row of the Council Chambers. He approached the podium in that state. The transcript of the interaction between Mr. Brigham and Mayor Osborne is captured below:

SB: Are we recording because I’ve been told … my name is Seth Brigham … is that my footage will be censored even though this is a public meeting and I have the right to free speech but apparently my bare
chest is too much for all of the city to handle. But I’ve come here … my theme is even city council sometimes must have to stand naked and that goes with Suzy Ageton and George Karakehian. Suzy I think it would be nice if we passed a resolution or ordinance …

SO: Seth please get to what your …. It’s not appropriate to call out any individual Council members … [See section below entitled ‘Police Action’]

SB: Excuse me but it is about campaign contributions (microphone feedback begins) during the campaign in which Suzy took campaign contributions … [See section below entitled ‘Microphone Feedback’]

SO: Seth …

SB: Excuse me I have my three minutes and my right to free speech so if you would just pipe down (microphone feedback problem stops). Thank you. I apologize for that but Suzy …

SO: Seth, it’s really not appropriate to ….

SB: No it is … These are … (microphones and sound go dead until the next speaker approaches the podium).

POLICE ACTION DURING FEBRUARY 16, 2010 REGULAR MEETING

As indicated in the Boulder Police Department Report No. 10-2078, the arresting officer indicates that “At this point, members of the City Council asked that I remove Brigham from the room.”

In reviewing the video tape of the meeting and in discussing the matter with the arresting officer, Council Member George Karakehian looked towards the arresting officer and gave a hand gesture that prompted the officer to move towards Mr. Brigham.

As further indicated in the Police report, the arresting officer approached Mr. Brigham and asked him to gather his belongings and leave. When Mr. Brigham refused, the arresting officer again asked him to leave.
When Mr. Brigham again refused, the arresting officer grabbed Mr. Brigham in the right shoulder/ upper arm area and told him he needed to get his belongings and leave. At this point, Mr. Brigham pulled away from the arresting officer. In response, the arresting officer grabbed Mr. Brigham’s left arm, placed it behind his back and started to physically escort him out of the room. While escorting Mr. Brigham out of the Council Chamber, the arresting officer advised him that he was under arrest.

MICROPHONE FEEDBACK

As indicated above, there was microphone and sound feedback heard by staff members present in the Council Chamber. Staff members of the City Clerk’s Office indicate they saw Council Member Wilson rubbing his finger over the microphone at his seat.

In response to the feedback caused by this, City Clerk Alisa Lewis turned off the microphone system and turned it back on. When sound did not immediately return, Ms. Lewis again turned the system off and then on again. It is important to note that when the sound system is terminated and turned back on, there is a seven second delay before sound returns. Due to the number of times Ms. Lewis attempted to turn the system back on, sound did not return until at approximately the same time the next
speaker approached the podium. The video continued to run and was broadcast live on Channel 8.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In response to this occurrence, staff submits the following recommendations for Council consideration.

MICROPHONES

* Regularly remind Council Members, staff and members of the public that microphones in the Council Chamber are not to be touched or manipulated. Manipulation of the microphones (by hand, paper or
otherwise) can cause significant feedback problems both within the Council Chambers and on Channel 8 broadcasts of meetings.
* Instruct all staff clerking meetings that the microphones should rarely be terminated during a meeting. In the event termination of the microphones is warranted during a meeting, staff clerking the meeting should request a Point of Order from the individual chairing the meeting. Upon recognition by the meeting chair, the staff member shall request that discussion temporarily cease, indicate for the record the reason the microphones must be terminated. Discussion by the Council should not commence until the staff member verbally indicates on the record that the microphones have been restored.
* Staff from the City Manager’s Office should continue the process of reviewing options for a new sound/ microphone system in the Council Chambers and report their findings, options and recommendation to the City Council.

MEETING MANAGEMENT

* The Mayor or Council member designated as meeting chair should be responsible for keeping order during Council meetings.
* Officers from the Boulder Police Department in attendance at Council meetings for security purposes should be permitted to utilize their discretion during a meeting to enforce the law, violations and actionable threats that identified or witnessed by the officer.
* Except in instances where the officer becomes concerned for the physical safety of any person or other exigent circumstances exist, officers from the Boulder Police Department in attendance at Council meetings for security purposes shall take action to remove an individual from a meeting or assist in maintaining order based upon direction provided to the officer by the Mayor, or individual chairing the meeting, or other designee.
* Prior to asking to have an individual removed, the Mayor or designee should first warn the individual to cease the conduct in question or they will be asked to leave. If the individual does not stop the conduct in question, the Mayor or designee should then tell the individual they must leave or he/she will be removed. If the individual then refuses to leave, the Mayor or designee shall clearly and verbally ask the police officer in attendance to remove the person from the Council Chambers or meeting location (i.e., “Officer, please remove this individual from Council Chambers.” At this point, it will be officer discretion as to whether the person is charged with an offense. The decision will be based on factors such as the severity of the disruption and the cooperation level of the person being escorted out of the meeting. If
any degree of force must be used to remove the person, charges will be filed against the person.
* Council procedures should be amended to reflect these and any other changes related to meeting management and meeting decorum.

* Council rules and procedures pertaining to decorum should be posted in a conspicuous location in Council Chambers.


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