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Kalispell council gets refresher on communication policies

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | February 22, 2021 12:00 AM

The Kalispell City Council’s lines of communication have undergone significant upheaval over the past year, prompting a work session tonight to review the council’s communication policies.

City Manager Doug Russell will give a presentation outlining various recommendations for council members’ decorum, both during meetings and out in the public sphere.

The council procedures, detailed in the work session agenda, cover guidelines for behaviors ranging from different meeting formats, to various means of personal communication between councilors, to general conduct in public.

The current set of policies was adopted by the council in 2013.

Suggestions include the proper use of official city stationery, the appropriate manner of expressing personal opinions and considerations for interacting with the public, among numerous other recommendations.

For instance, the policy document advises, “for the good of the community, members who encounter the appearance of impropriety should step aside.” This scenario is described in the procedures as a situation where “participation does not ‘look’ or ‘feel’ right.”

Another procedure explains: “it is appropriate that council members recognize that as elected officials, their conversations when out in public will be overheard. Members of the council should take care to be aware of what they say in public, whether in private or public conversations.”

The work session will help clarify this advice. An interest in revisiting council policies recently arose after members of the council asked to review the rules regarding social media communications.

The question came up after a social media exchange last month between council members Ryan Hunter and Chad Graham. At that time, City Manager Doug Russell reminded Hunter of appropriate public conduct for council members, and the council asked for a refresher on council procedures.

AT THE council’s most recent meeting on Feb. 16, Hunter also asked the council to use time during Monday’s work session to discuss the possibility of implementing a city-specific mask mandate in Kalispell. He suggested such a measure would have benefits for public health and local businesses after Gov. Greg Gianforte lifted the statewide mask requirement on Feb. 12.

However, there appeared to be limited support for a mask requirement among the council members when Hunter made the proposal last week. Although Russell indicated the council could talk about potentially advancing such a discussion during the next work session, there is no specific agenda item regarding a mask mandate on the meeting for Monday’s work session.

The work session will be available to the public via Zoom videoconference at:https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9XsVkH5rSJagh0DSHHn4Kw.

Public comment can be sent via email to publiccomment@kalispell.com.

The work session starts at 7 p.m.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.