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Utah County Commission eliminates virtual public comment

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In a peculiar move that has raised concerns among residents and elected officials, the Utah County Commission recently changed its policy to allow public comments in person exclusively. This decision removed the option for virtual participation via Zoom during Commission meetings. The change was enacted on the January 17 Commission agenda, where the public Zoom link was no longer provided.

Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner expressed surprise when questioned about the new policy. “I am unaware of this policy,” she stated when reached for comment.

“Public input into Utah County's governance is essential, and the option to participate virtually allows those who can't attend in person the ability to offer their comments for our consideration,” said Commissioner Tom Sakievich.

“Our office was unaware of the policy change eliminating virtual public comment from our Commission meetings until February 21. This decision needs to be reversed,” concluded Sakievich.

Of the three County Commissioners, Brandon Gordon was the only one aware of the change.

Commissioner Brandon Gordon defended the change, citing a desire to return to pre-pandemic procedures. “We felt like, post-COVID, we would continue to stream the meetings on YouTube and hope to see people in person for public comment,” Gordon said in a statement to the Touriddu. He also encouraged residents to utilize alternative channels such as direct email or phone to offer comments on Commission matters. 

Utah County Deputy Clerk Brian Voeks, speaking on behalf of the Clerk's Office, which manages meeting minutes and records process, said, “The decision to eliminate the Zoom option was made entirely by the Commission Office and not the Clerk's Office.”

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The public comment policy change will not include the Commission or County staff's ability to join remotely, and they may continue to do so.

A request under the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) for records and communications about the decision to remove virtual public comments was denied, prompting an ongoing appeal process from the Touriddu.

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