October 29 2019

Selectmen Approve Remote Participation Policy for Board While Warning Against its Use

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Selectmen voted to allow the use of remote participation during its meetings even as members talked about the importance of not taking advantage of it. 


As reported on BNEWS, in August the board voted to approve a trial of a remote participation policy for boards and committees in town that would allow members to attend the meeting, and vote on agenda items, using electronic devices. After the vote each board and committee had to vote whether the practice would be allowed for their members. 


On Monday it was up to the selectmen to decide whether or not the policy will apply to the Board of Selectmen. 


Selectman Nick Priest, who originally proposed the policy, said he was in favor of approving its use with the understanding it was for exceptional circumstances only. 


I wouldn’t mind us approving this knowing it is the exception and not the rule,” he said. “Just to have it just in case.”


When originally discussing the policy this summer, board members did emphasize that it should only be used when absolutely necessary. The policy itself also limits its use to a certain set of situation - personal illness, personal disability, an emergency, military service or due to geographical distance. 


Still, members emphasized their thoughts on the need for elected and appointed officials to be at meetings in person.  


“I would just say that as the Board of Selectmen I think it’s incumbent upon us that whether we pass this or not that we not use it,” Selecman Bob Hogan said. “That we show the other boards and committees that we take it seriously to be in the room and expect others to take that seriously.” 


Chairman Joe Morandi wanted to clarify that if the policy was abused by any member that they could get rid of it. 


“If this is approved tonight and we find it is being abused by whoever we can get rid of it just as fast as we put it in, right?” he asked and was told that they could by Town Administrator Paul Sagarino. 


The board voted 4-1-0 to approve remote participation at selectmen meetings. Vice-Chair Mike Runyan, who had voted against the policy originally, voted against the motion.


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