LeBlanc: Council needs Zoom rules to comply with open meeting law

Staff file photo/City Council president Steve LeBlanc has drafted rules that would keep the City Council in compliance with open meeting laws during Zoom meetings.

A frozen computer screen, poor internet connection, and the inability to hear another are all problems that anyone using online video platforms is sure to have experienced over the past nine months.

But when it comes conducting Gloucester's municipal business online, these unavoidable glitches can cause a breach of open meeting laws that city councilors are required to follow by the city and state. 

That is why City Council President Steve LeBlanc has drafted a list of rules of procedure for how councilors should approach technical difficulties during their meetings. 

"These are just some of the things that I thought of off the top of my head," LeBlanc said, noting that he would send the list to city General Counsel Chip Payson and the rest of the council for review. 

"Who knows how long (the pandemic) is going to be and who knows when it will end," LeBlanc added. 

The drafted rules of procedure as of last Monday are: 

If the council president gets logged out of the meeting, the vice president will continue to run the meeting until the president returns to the meeting.

If the president and vice president both get logged out of the meeting, the longest sitting councilor will take over the meting until the president or vice president returns, as long as there is quorum of the council. 

If the city clerk is logged out of the meeting, the meeting will continue with a quorum of the council. 

If one or more councilors get logged out, the meeting will continue with a quorum of the council and the councilors who were logged out shall not vote on the motion at hand. Or the council president will call a five-minute recess to wait for the returning councilor (s). 

If one or more councilors get logged off during a public hearing, the president will call for a recess to allow the councilors to return and continue the hearing.

LeBlanc mentioned that each rule should end with "as long as there is a quorum," if it does not already.

He noted that councilors will also need to discuss how to cancel a meeting if they cannot get back to a quorum and how to reschedule that meeting.

"We need to work on these a little bit more but I think this is a base," LeBlanc said. "We have to have a plan in place on how to continue these meetings."

The conversation has been continued Feb. 1, 2021. 

Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

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