Santa Paula Times

Teleconferencing guidelines addressed by Council

July 25, 2002
Santa Paula City Council

Creating a teleconferencing policy was discussed by the City Council at the July 15 meeting, two weeks after the mayor cast votes from his home.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesCreating a teleconferencing policy was discussed by the City Council at the July 15 meeting, two weeks after the mayor cast votes from his home.Mayor Ray Luna had undergone surgery in June and although he attended part of the July 1 meeting, he excused himself to continue participation from his 9th Street home.Subsequently, Vice Mayor Laura Flores Espinosa asked that the issue of formal policy be explored.“Our Acting Fire Chief (Rick Araiza) was deputized that night,” July 1, to meet legal requirements required by the teleconference from the Luna residence, noted Espinosa.The decorum of a private home can be different from council chambers, she noted. “If it’s done from a private home, it raises concerns of conduct in a more relaxed setting and how relaxed it will be; alcohol could be served or allowed there.”Staff should address such issues and guidelines created, said Espinosa.Hypotheticals should be avoided and state law followed, said Councilman Rick Cook. “. . .each council member has a different house; I agree with [Espinosa’s concerns of] alcohol being served and dancing girls. It’s a public meeting as is,” and state law on teleconferencing can’t be superceded.
It’s more complicated, said Councilman John Procter: “One thing that is interesting is if a council member is out of town, like in a motel, what would be the posting requirements [noting that a council meeting is taking place] for that? Just so this doesn’t blindside us, I’d like more of a summary on how the law works.”Another issue is instances where teleconferencing would be accommodated at the initiation of a council member, said Espinosa. Would all such requests be honored or could teleconferencing be limited to illnesses.“If we delve into the law we’ll probably that most,” circumstances are covered, said Councilman Don Johnson. “I have no problem with reviewing it, but be real careful that we don’t go beyond what state law requires.”City Attorney Phil Romney said limits would have to be researched, including on whether or not a quorum has to meet within city boundaries. “My interpretation of this is because of the unusual nature of teleconferencing the council can set some boundaries for it.”Teleconferencing does not allow seeing “faces or expressions or reading body language. The only way around that is allowing video conferencing. . .I think there is a legitimate distinction,” Romney added.First Amendment issues must also be explored, noted Procter. Although the council can approve teleconferencing “but the flip side,” should be examined. “I would just like to have it evenly applied.”The issue is of an unusual nature, said Romney, and although having all council members present is the original intent, “we have to have reasonable criteria.”