Example code of conduct, potential policy changes reviewed by Grand Forks council members

Discussions on citizen comment policies have been ongoing during council meetings throughout the past couple of weeks.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall, 255 N. 4th St. Sam Easter / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – An example code of conduct for the citizen comment portion at City Council meetings was presented to council members Monday.

Discussions on citizen comment policies have been ongoing during council meetings in recent weeks.

The example code of conduct outlines decorum at meetings along with addressing the council. The example policies state that:

  • Audience members will refrain from disruptive behavior, including making loud noises, clapping, shouting, booing, hissing, interrupting council members or other members of the public or engaging in any other activity that disturbs, disrupts or impedes the orderly conduct of the meeting. 
  • Audience members will refrain from creating, provoking or participating in any type of disturbance involving unwelcome physical contact or verbal abuse. 
  • Audience members will silence and refrain from using mobile phones and/or pagers while the meeting is in session. 
  • People wanting to address the council on an item not on the council agenda as included in the notice of public meeting can do so by filling out a comment card prior to the start of the council meeting. Upon review of the proposed comments, the council president may, at his or her discretion, add the public comment to the agenda for the council meeting and distribute the proposed questions or comments to the members of the council. 
  • In exercising discretion to permit public comment, the council president will consider the expected duration of the meeting; number of agenda items to be addressed; the number of speaker requests received; relevance of the proposed subject matter to the operations of Grand Forks; timeliness of the subject matter of the request (whether the request concerns an issue that the council has already decided upon or is to be addressed by the council at a future date); and whether the subject matter of the request is within the council’s authority to address. 

Any behavior that violates the code of conduct would result in removal from the meeting.
City Council President Dana Sande said the drafted code of conduct example provided by council member Kyle Kvamme has “reasonable expectations” for the public along with council members and city staff.

While the code of conduct is currently worded specifically toward City Council meetings, Sande recommended amending the language to apply it for all public city meetings.


“Because I think the concept for being nice to people lies at all meetings, not just necessarily at the Grand Forks City Council meetings,” he said.

City Attorney Dan Gaustad said one concern about the example code of conduct that would need to be reevaluated is in regard to proposed council comments being up to the discretion of the council president.

Several areas of focus on council policies that were discussed at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting were also revisited by council members. Those items include:

  • Whether council comments should be moved from City Council meetings to Committee of the Whole meetings.
  • Whether the five-minute time limit should be reevaluated.
  • If the comment portion should be moved back to the end of meetings.
  • If comments should be limited to Grand Forks residents and business owners only.
  • If comments should be limited to items on the agenda.
  • Whether an amendment should be made to citizen comment cards.

Council members provided their thoughts on each item, including whether they would vote in favor or against a policy change related to each one.
Council members agreed to keep the five-minute time limit and several agreed to keep council comments for City Council meetings. Council member Ken Vein voiced his continued support for council comments to be made at Committee of the Whole meetings in order to make more informed decisions on items based on public input.

“That’s something that I think is of value to me is the earlier we get feedback, the better,” he said.

City Council Vice President Bret Weber said he was at first compelled by the idea to move council comments to the Committee of the Whole meetings, but having comments at the City Council meetings — when Mayor Brandon Bochenski is present — is beneficial.

Other possible changes didn't gain full support from council members, including who should be allowed to speak at meetings. While the idea of having comments open only for Grand Forks residents, property and business owners was proposed, council member Rebecca Osowski questioned whether that would keep Grand Forks Air Force Base personnel and residents of East Grand Forks from speaking at meetings.

Sande outlined his feelings on the idea.


“I do appreciate the folks at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and they absolutely are very important to our community and they should take the opportunities to talk to the mayor, talk to myself, make phone calls,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that the folks at the Grand Forks Air Force Base should get a seat at our table for our city business. Likewise, East Grand Forks. … I think if we are going to try and limit it, I think we have to draw a line and I don’t believe it can be wishy-washy because that puts myself and the mayor or the other presiding officers in a very difficult position.”

Other proposed ideas include allowing people to talk about specific agenda items along with having a separate portion at the end of the meeting for general comments.

The concept of comment cards — and when those should be turned in by people wanting to speak — also was discussed. Current policy outlines that those who wish to speak at City Council meetings must submit a comment card — which includes their name, address and subject — before the council meetings start at 5:30 p.m.

During the citizen comment portion of Monday’s meeting earlier in the evening, Grand Forks resident Mona Leake said she would like to see that deadline eliminated.

“Basically, it’s really hard for people, especially some occupations who punch a clock, to get here,” she said. “And also you have young couples, families that have to pick up children in child care. They’re not going to make it here before 5:50 p.m. So you’re eliminating a large group of people with this 5:30 p.m. deadline.”

Leake also suggested the idea of having the council meeting start at a later time, such as 6 p.m.

Weber proposed the concept of not having a strict deadline to submit comment cards, but to accept those cards throughout the meeting.

The conversation and action on the council policies and code of conduct will return to a future council meeting.


In other news Monday, council members:

  • Were presented with two variations of logo designs for Grand Forks’ 150th anniversary next year, otherwise known as the Sesquicentennial. The council also discussed potential ways to celebrate the 150th anniversary as well as when those celebrations should be held.
  • Held a public hearing and approved an application for a five-year 100% Payment in Lieu of Taxes (also known as a PILOT) from Enclave Companies, which is proposing to build an approximate 100,000-square-foot industrial building named The Exchange. The property site is approximately 10.38 acres located on 36th Avenue South along I-29. The estimated value of the land is $850,000 and building improvements are estimated at $11 million.
  • At a previous Jobs Development Authority meeting, JDA members authorized contracting with Tecta America Dakotas, LLC, to replace the roof at the Hybrid Innovation Venture Engine, the former Herald building. The quote was $224,302, which is the lowest of two quotes received.
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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