The ability for Borough Assembly members to attend executive sessions by teleconference is under debate. At the assembly’s April 20 meeting, it passed the first reading of an ordinance to prohibit the mayor or assembly members from dialing into executive sessions via telephone.
Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer said he called for the ordinance, and added that he does not feel comfortable with people being able to drop in and out of meetings during executive session using the meeting’s teleconference system, and said he doesn’t see a need for it. The ordinance passed on first reading 5-1, with Assembly Member Jay Burnham against. It will return for a second reading and public hearing at the assembly’s next meeting on May 4.
During discussion of the ordinance, Burnham questioned the measure, saying it had the potential to edit out one or two of the assembly members from the executive session if they are not able to physically attend. He continued to say that there should be a way of establishing a secure line to call in if the concern is people dropping in and out of the conference call system unannounced.
“If we’re going to be able to call into a meeting, we should also be able to call into an executive session,” Burnham said.
Executive sessions are special meetings that take place within regular assembly meetings. These can be called by the assembly by a majority vote to discuss subjects in the following categories:
• Matters of which the immediate knowledge of would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the public entity.
• Subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any person, provided the person may request a public discussion.
• Matters which by law, municipal charter or ordinance are required to be confidential.
• Matters involving consideration of government records that by law are not subject to public disclosure.
Assembly Member Tim Cochran said that if there is an absolute need for an executive session and one of the assembly members or mayor cannot attend in person, the group can just reschedule.
“I believe if you are going to represent your community and sit up here, you should be in the meeting if at all possible,” Cochran said.