hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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January 10, 2013

City Council wired for long-distance votes

City Hall meeting room set up for remote participation by phone, eventually video

(Continued)

Mayor James Fiorentini has said he supports the idea.

“I wouldn’t want someone to miss all or most meetings because it’s important for elected officials to be there in person,” the mayor said in a prior interview. “For instance, there are things that take place at meetings that can’t happen by teleconference, such as talking to residents in the hallway. But if it’s used sparingly, I don’t have a problem with it and I’ll sign off on it if the council passes it.”

Councilors said they will set a maximum number of meetings a councilor will be allowed to participate in remotely in a given year. Several have said they prefer no more than six times.

Michitson, the top vote-getter in the last council election, resigned the council presidency two months ago due to his new work schedule at MITRE Corporation, where he is an electrical engineer.

Other telecommuting rules include: A quorum of the body, including the chairman or the person running the meeting, must be physically present at the meeting location; members of a public body who participate remotely and all people at the meeting location must be clearly audible to each other; and all votes taken during a meeting in which a member participates remotely must be by roll call vote.

Any costs incurred by the city in allowing remote participation must be paid by the councilor who telecommutes. Remote participation may be by audio or video, including Webex or Skype.

Councilors have said they will begin by allowing remote participation by phone, but might expand the program in the future to allow remote video conferencing.

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