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Glen Cove council members want to rein in bad behavior at meetings

Mayor Reginald A. Spinello, center, sits with members

Mayor Reginald A. Spinello, center, sits with members of the Glen Cove City Council during the 2016 City of Glen Cove inauguration ceremony held inside City Hall, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Glen Cove City Council members Tuesday night agreed to adopt rules of decorum to rein in the raucousness that has become a feature of many council meetings. But they opted to make the rules informal rather than part of city law.

Mayor Reginald Spinello proposed rules that include a 3-minute time limit on comments from residents and from council members, and restricting comments to city business. It also bars foot-stamping, whistling, and threatening or abusive language.

“The issue is we have had people rambling on” for 20 minutes or more and sometimes insulting council members and residents, Spinello said at a pre-council work session. That has led some residents to avoid speaking at council meetings, he said.

“They don’t want to be ridiculed,” Councilman Timothy Tenke said.

Councilman Efraim Spagnoletti said time limits would “give everyone an opportunity to speak.”

The rules also prohibit council members from interrupting each other or disrupting a meeting.

Spinello read a list of other Long Island municipalities with time limits and said the limits in Glen Cove would be flexible, with more time granted if a speaker was trying to finish explaining a point.

But some council members said they wanted time limits longer than three minutes or none at all.

“I think maybe it should be guidelines subject to the mayor’s discretion,” Councilman Joseph Capobianco said.

Councilman Roderick Watson worried about a provision in the proposal that would give the presiding officer -- usually the mayor -- the power to bar people who use abusive language or disrupt a meeting from speaking further in that meeting.

Spinello said that provision is meant to target unruly speakers who refuse requests to sit down. Another provision allows the ejection of disruptive audience members.

With council members agreed that some rules are necessary, but unable to reach consensus on the specifics, they opted to make the guidelines informal. If the guidelines fail to better control council meetings, the council could later consider legislation, Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck said.

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