COVINGTON, Ga. – Covington City Council had perfect attendance Monday night while one councilmember was in an out of state hotel and another was on a cruise ship through the technology of Skype.
In August of this year, the council unanimously approved updated “Rules of Conduct” to allow council members to join into a meeting when they could not physically be in attendance through the online video calling program twice a year.
“A council member may participate in a meeting of the mayor and council by two-way video teleconference if necessary due to reasons of health or absence from the City so long as the other requirements of the Open Meetings Act are met so long as a quorum is present in person,” according to the new rules. “Absent emergency conditions or the written opinion of a physician or other health professional that reasons of health prevent a Council member's physical presence, no council member shall participate by two-way video teleconference pursuant to this subsection more than twice in one calendar year. Except as provided at subsection (f), the Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem must be physically present to preside over a meeting of the Mayor and Council.”
Councilwoman Susie Keck and Councilman Josh McKelvey utilized the teleconference option for the first time in the city’s history Monday night.
Fleeta Baggett questioned the video conferencing during the public comment portion of the meeting, asking whether or not the councilmembers not in attendance still had a counting vote.
City Attorney Frank Turner said according to state law, members of the council could phone into meetings, but the Covington City Council took it one step further to add video to the call to ensure the councilmember was actually the person participating in the meeting.
“Thank you everybody for your patience. I fully planned on being there tonight, but got called on to a job site at the last-minute last week, so I want to thank you all for being adaptive” McKelvey said. “To the rest of the council, thank you for being adaptive to the times and modernizing and letting us use Skype in accordance to state law. I appreciate that. This is more efficient. It allows me to feed my family and serve the council simultaneously, so I do appreciate that.”
“I wanted to thank you, just like Josh (McKelvey) did, for allowing us to Skype in and assure Covington that there’s nothing more important to me than to be in attendance of the meetings when I can be,” Keck said. “This is a birthday cruise. Yesterday was my birthday, so I’m happy to be here, but I’m also happy to be able to enjoy it and I’ll be there next meeting.”
The next Covington City Council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13, as the council will only have one meeting during the month of November because of the Thanksgiving holiday.