Proposed ordinance before Merced City Council could mean a misdemeanor for disrupting council meetings

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A proposed ordinance in the City of Merced could mean changes to the way citizens can voice their concerns. (KFSN)

A proposed ordinance in the City of Merced could mean changes to the way citizens can voice their concerns. If approved, breaking conduct rules could be punishable as a misdemeanor.

"Merced is changing were getting more people to come to City Hall were just bringing more structure to meetings," said City Manager Steven Carrigan.

Carrigan says, the recommendation by the city's mayor, does not stem from any incidents and a majority voted in favor because the standard to enforce a misdemeanor is so high.

"The mayor would have to give them many chances to settle down quiet down but if the meeting was considered impossible to continue then they could be charged with a misdemeanor," said Carrigan.

Councilmembers Anthony Martinez and Matthew Serrato voted no. However, most agree amendments need to be made to the current policy.

"People need to be able to vent their grievances toward the city council that needs to be worded somehow so that it's not used to try and shut down a lot of people that are offended speaking to the city council about why they're concerned," said Merced City Council Michael Belluomini.

In Monday night's meeting members of the public voiced their concerns on how this could pose limitations on free speech.

The city manager says with the given direction, the council will return for discussion in two weeks and in two more weeks, the ordinance will come to a vote.

"It's intended for people in the audience that aren't listening to the mayor that aren't quieting down that aren't letting their speaker make their point at the podium," said Carrigan.

The current code of conduct listed on the Merced City Council's website does not list a conclusive consequence for the disruptive behavior.
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