Legal Hotline: Sunshine Resident Taxpayer Comments

  • Mar 22, 2018

Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel

Q: I recently attended a township supervisor meeting where the supervisors refused to allow public comment from a few attendees based on their address, even though they own property in the township. They said the law allows them to restrict public comment to residents only. Can they do that?

A: No, the Sunshine Act allows agencies to restrict public comment to residents and taxpayers of the political subdivision, but they cannot restrict public comment to residents only.

Section 710.1 of the Sunshine Act requires local agencies to provide a reasonable opportunity for public comment at public meetings on matters of concern, official action or deliberation which are or may be before the board or council prior to taking official action. This provision also allows, but does not require, agencies to limit public comment to residents and taxpayers of the political subdivision. 

A public comment policy that limits public comment to residents only does not comply with the Sunshine Act’s public comment requirements. The township must, at a minimum, allow public comment from township residents and those who pay taxes to the township. Further, the law allows - and many agencies permit - public comment from any interested party in order to facilitate well-informed decisions on matters of agency business.

As always, this is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Please contact your newspaper’s attorney or the PNA Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080 with questions.

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