Commission proposes to allow commissioners to attend meetings electronically

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Commissioners are considering a proposal that would allow them to appear electronically at some meetings instead of being there in person.

The recent snow and ice made it hard for some commissioners to get to the county building, but chairwoman Heidi Shafer said this would only be an emergency policy.

"Ideally we want commissioners here," she said.

But when winter weather hits, Memphis roads get dicey. That's one of the reasons why Shafer thinks approving alternate methods of attending meetings would be a good idea.

"I think there are times where technology can be really useful. There is no reason for us to live as this is the 1950s," Shafer said.

Under Shafer's proposal, members who want to attend by video or audio conference must get advance approval--for reasons like extreme illness, inclement weather, or family emergencies. Members would be recorded as present and could participate in the discussion, but they couldn't vote.

Electronic attendance would only apply to committee meetings. Commissioners still must be physically present at full commission meetings to speak and vote.

"I think I could be a good idea for flexibility for them but I have a feeling they could get lazy and stay at home and just call it in each time," Robert Novak said.

Under the proposal, commissioners would be allotted two chances yearly to participate in meetings electronically.

Qenetta Williams believes bad weather is the only legitimate excuse for commissioners missing any meetings.

"For safety, if the weather is bad but other than that they should be there," Williams said.

Chairwoman Shafer said there actually is no attendance requirement for commissioners.

The item passed committee and is on schedule to be discussed Monday in front of the full commission.

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