Lake Ozark table decision on establishing digital board meeting option

Dan Field
newsroom@lakesunonline.com
Lake Ozark City Hall.

A move to establish guidelines for holding City of Lake Ozark meetings by electronic means has been tabled.

The ordinance was originally scheduled for further discussion at the regular meeting May 25, but aldermen decided to delay a decision so they can discuss the particulars and potential impact at a workshop at a later date and give the public more time to provide input. The ordinance was originally scheduled for consideration May 11, but aldermen tabled a decision until the May 25 board meeting to give the public time to comment.

The impact of COVID-19 last year led to adoption of an ordinance allowing for virtual meetings so board members and staff could attend via Zoom. That authorization expired March 31, and City Administrator Dave Van Dee told the board of aldermen during a September workshop that the board should revisit the issue in light of ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

He raised two points during the workshop which the board discussed at its most recent meeting:

•Under what circumstances should the use of the electronic format rather than in-person attendance be allowed.

•The city has a rule that if a board or commission member (other than the board of aldermen) misses three or more meetings they can be removed. Van Dee asked if one of those members attends three or more meetings only by electronic means, can they be removed.

Board discussion

Alderman Matt Wright noted that discussion at the April workshop included the importance of attending meetings in person.

“We talked a little bit about using it (the Zoom meetings) as a crutch vs. a way of life that if you’re elected you should make an effort to be here,” he said. “Obviously, things do come up like vacations and hardships, but people want to see you in person sitting up here, though maybe not every single meeting. You seem less available if you aren’t here.”

“I don’t see any way around not having an ordinance because of COVID. It’s a new world we live in now,” Mayor Dennis Newberry offered. “But I don’t like it being used for other purposes and then we all become lazy and sit at home on your laptops.”

Alderman Dennis Klautzer agreed.

“I think part of our responsibility as an elected official is to be present,” he said.

“We all have schedules that take us away from what we have to do sometimes, but 20 meetings a year and you can’t be here? That doesn’t seem right.”

The board continues to seek input from the community regarding the use of electronic means to allow board members and city commission members to attend meetings electronically, for example Zoom.

Other business

•The board approved the appointment of Robert Elliott to the Budget Committee, filling the position vacated when Chris Wagner resigned.