Council adopts electronic participation policy

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Under certain conditions, council members will be allowed to participate in meetings electronically per a newly adopted policy.

At its Oct. 20 meeting, council unanimously approved a policy that allows members unable to be at a meeting due to a temporary or permanent disability, tending a family member’s medical needs or an identified personal matter to participate in the meeting electronically.

It has to be approved by a vote of the quorum of council members physically present at a meeting.

If approved, the minutes will note the councilmember’s remote location, though the remote location does not have to be open to the public unless three or more members are at that location. The minutes also have to denote why the member is participating remotely.

Everyone physically present at the meeting must be able to hear the remote council member, though they do not necessarily have to be able to see them.

City Attorney William Hutchings Jr. said council had asked his office to draft a resolution and policy to allow members to take part in council meetings electronically, but it had to adopt a policy to do so.

For identified personal matters, a member could take part in up to 25% of its meetings remotely — or up to six meetings, assuming council did not cancel any of its regular meetings.

If council does not approve a member’s electronic participation, it must specify a reason.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett asked how electronic participation would be established with the member participating remotely. City Manager Al Moor said there is an app that members can use with their city-issued cell phone that will allow them to access the meeting remotely.

Council’s policy is allowable by state code Sec. 2.2-3708.2 regarding Freedom of Information Act provisions on meetings held through electronic communication means.