The Clearwater Fire Protection District Board of Directors is considering allowing remote attendance to meetings if a board member is unable to attend a meeting due to a work commitment, illness, or emergency. No decision has been made.
The board discussed the issue on Monday, Oct. 9, and tabled the issue. However, all board members present at the meeting were in favor of the idea. One reason that the board is considering this issue is that one of its members have been travelling out of state frequently due to job responsibilities.
Remote attendance of local government meetings is permissible under Missouri Revised Statute 610.015. The procedures will allow, but not require, members to not miss a meeting or an important vote they would otherwise be unable to be in attendance.
Board chairman Shane Babb said that, if approved, a majority of members would have to be present at the meeting in person. The CFPD board is a five-person board, so at least three members would have to be present in person. The person(s) attending remotely to participate in the meeting by one of several different means such as a Skype video conference via computer or a conference call on a telephone. A board member would not be able to participate in a meeting via text message or email.
“I want to make sure we get everything on paper correctly before we approve this resolution,” Babb told his fellow board members.
Babb said that the fire board attempts to operate as transparent as possible. Babb said that before the board would consider passing the resolution, he wanted to make sure that the fire board’s resolution matches state requirements.
The Missouri Sunshine Law states, “Emergencies happen and so if you have quorum present physically in the room, and less than quorum by telephone or other device, may count votes but must show nature of emergency (reason not following normal protocol on voting) in the minutes. Remember: Public is present or right to be present with the quorum unless a closed meeting.”
Throughout the nation, many governmental bodies have allowed members to attend via video conferencing and have had positive results. Video conference connection as meeting attendance is becoming more and more accepted in local government. It can be an effective method of attendance since it allows “face time” as well as an audio connection. And it is much closer to actual physical attendance than simply a phone connection. All that is necessary is a good internet connection and a computer, laptop, or electronic pad with a camera.
This topic will be revisited at the November CFPD Board of Directors meeting.