Arlington selectmen have adopted the state's new regulations that will allow local board and committee members to remotely participate in public meetings via conference calls or video conferencing.
The Board unanimously adopted the regulations this week after Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office announced the new regulations last Friday authorizing remote participation in meetings of public bodies under certain circumstances.
“The purpose of these new regulations is to promote greater participation in government, while upholding the main purpose of the Open Meeting Law – transparency,” Coakley said in a press release. “While in certain extenuating circumstances members of public bodies are permitted to participate remotely, we encourage physical attendance when at all possible.”
Arlington Town Cousel Juliana Rice told selectmen Monday that the regulations allow board members to participate in a public meeting via conference calls or video messaging for several different reasons, such as a board or committee member’s illness, disability or geographic distance from a meeting location.
“This is a tool that I think is intended not to be used on a regular basis,” Rice said.
The regulations require that a quorum of the public body must be physically present at a meeting in order for a member to participate remotely. All members must also be audible to each other, and any votes must be taken by roll call.
Rice said members can also participate in executive session meetings, which are not open to the public and often involve discussion about personnel, litigation or contract negotiations. Before a board or committee member can participate remotely in an executive session, they must make a statement on the record that no one else at the remote location can hear the closed meeting.
Rice said she will attend a meeting with the Arlington School Committee on Dec. 8 to discuss the regulations, but the vote by selectmen Monday clears the path for the School Committee and all other town boards and committees to use remote participation.