By Katina Caraganis
SHIRLEY — Members of boards and committees in Shirley can now remotely participate in their meetings if they cannot be physically present in the room during the scheduled meeting time.
Selectmen unanimously voted Monday night to opt into the remote participation option, a relatively new amendment to the Open Meeting Law announced by Attorney General Martha Coakley in November.
In order to participate, members must meet a certain approved circumstance, including personal illness, disability, emergency, military service or geographic distance, Shirley Chief Administrative Officer Dave Berry said.
In addition, the person wishing to remotely participate by telephone, Internet, satellite-enabled audio, video conferencing or other technology must follow certain procedures, including notifying the chair of their respective board or committee immediately and obtaining all meeting materials prior to the meeting.
The name of remote participants must be announced at the beginning of the meeting, all votes must be done by roll call, and they can participate in executive session as long as nobody else is within ear shot of the conversation. If someone can hear the conversation, that person must be approved by the board, Berry said.
“I think it would potentially benefit all communities and boards. I don’t know that there is someone who is routinely absent for one of these reasons, but people do travel for work or personal reasons,” he said.
Berry said Andy Deveau, a selectmen, will be out of town next month but will now be able to participate in meetings remotely. Additionally, Assessor Ron Marchetti spends considerable time in Florida during the winter months and now will be able to participate in relevant meetings.
You have to have a quorum at the meeting, not counting the remote participant, Berry said, but the person calling in may vote in all matters.
“I just think it’s nice if you need someone to break a vote. It’s helpful in that sense,” Selectman Kendra Dumont said Wednesday. But, she said, she doesn’t want it to be a deterrent for people coming to meetings.
“I don’t want people to not attend meetings because of this. I don’t want people to stay home and think they just call in every time their board or committee meets,” she said.