Wide angle close up of City Hall sign in Downtown Bay City, Michigan. The sign is in the foreground with the City Hall clock tower in the background.

Bay City, MI, implements rules restricting public comments at city commission meetings


Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

The government of Bay City, Michigan, prohibits people speaking during the public comment period of city commission meetings from “demeaning” city officials, making “derogatory comments” towards another person, or using “vulgarities.” On June 16, 2023, FIRE sent a letter to the Bay City government, explaining that these prohibitions are unconstitutionally vague and/or violate the First Amendment by selectively targeting speech based on viewpoint. On June 29, Bay City’s attorney responded that he does not have sufficient expertise in First Amendment law and the city is seeking assistance of counsel with relevant expertise.

After receiving no further communication from the city, FIRE sent another letter on September 22, urging the city commission to update its comment policies. The commission subsequently provided FIRE a proposed amendment that substantially aligned the commission’s comment policies with the First Amendment. FIRE wrote the commission again on November 6 to provide further guidance. 

On December 18, the Bay City Commission approved an amendment to its rules removing the bans on public comments that are “derogatory,” “vulgar,” or “demeaning” to city officials or employees.