Williamsburg poised to allow remote council participation

WILLIAMSBURG – City Council will consider a new policy Thursday allowing members to participate in meetings electronically if needed, according to an agenda released in advance of the meeting.

The ordinance follows up on House Bill 193, which the General Assembly passed this year, providing localities the power to allow electronic participation as long as the locality already has a written policy in place.

Virginia's Freedom of Information Advisory Council drafted the model ordinance the city is using, City Attorney Christian Shelton said in a staff memo. It allows members of city council to participate in meetings electronically for either emergency and personal reasons, or because of disability or medical condition.

Either way, each member is limited to attending electronically to only two meetings, or 25 percent of meetings, annually, whichever is lesser, according to the draft ordinance.

If a council member wants to attend electronically because of emergency or personal reasons, they must first notify the mayor and provide its "specific nature" for the minutes. A majority of present council members have to agree to allow the absent member to participate electronically, and the location from which the absent member participates must be identified.

Less information is required, and no vote, if a council member is absent because of disability or a medical condition. The ordinance requires only the location of the absent member and enough information about the condition to "enable a reasonable person to understand the legitimacy of the request."

Either way, a quorum of at least three members must by physically present to hold the meeting. Council will also deal with where they are meeting Thursday, as they update the city's code to reflect their current meetings in the Municipal Building rather than the Stryker Building.

Architectural team Stemann-Pease is scheduled to provide an update on that project on Thursday.

Council has no public hearings on its agenda.

Want to go? City Council will meet at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 10, in the Third Floor Conference Room of the Municipal Building, 401 Lafayette Street.

Langley can be reached by phone at 757-345-2346.