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November 27, 2012

City weighs letting councilors attend meetings by phone, video conferencing

Haverhill would be one of first to use new law


“It’s innovative, so doing it would put Haverhill at the forefront technologically and show we’re an up-and-coming city,” the mayor said. “I wouldn’t want someone vacationing in Florida and using this, but the alternative is not being there (the meeting). So if it’s not abused, this could be a good alternative in some instances.”

Michitson, the top vote-getter in the last council election, resigned the council presidency last month due to his new work schedule at MITRE Corporation, where he is an electrical engineer. He has missed two council meetings since and three in the last two months.

In a interview for this story, Michitson said he hopes not to miss many more meetings, but that his travel schedule is uncertain.

“My immediate intention is to participate in City Council meetings next year during increased business travel,” Michitson said. “But of course I am interested in telecommuting because I prefer to be at every meeting one way or another.”

If passed, Michitson noted telecommuting would be an option for every councilor, not just himself. It also could potentially be used by Haverhill’s other governmental boards, such as the School Committee, he said.

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.

In approving the measure, the council can set the maximum number of times a councilor can telecommute per year. Any costs incurred by the city in allowing remote participation must be paid by the councilor who telecommutes, according to the rules. Remote participation may be by audio or video, including Webex or Skype.

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