The Carmel City Council will soon vote on guidelines for its members to virtually attend public meetings.
The council’s finance committee voted July 22 to in favor of allowing councilors to attend up to two regular meetings remotely per year and permitting committee members to attend up to 50 percent of committee meetings that way.
Remote voting at meetings wasn’t permitted before the COVID-19 pandemic, but an order from the governor allowed meetings to take place virtually through the state of emergency, which is set to expire July 31. A new state law took effect in April outlining virtual meeting attendance rules for public officials when Indiana is not in a state of emergency. The new law requires local governing bodies to adopt their own guidelines.
The new state law requires that at least 50 percent of the government body be present in-person at a meeting and that an elected official attend no more than 50 percent of meetings remotely. However, municipalities are permitted to adopt more stringent rules, as Carmel is proposing to do with its council meetings.
“I feel we don’t want to do all of our business electronically,” City Council President Sue Finkam said. “As a group, I’ve heard people make comments that it’s good to be back together.”
Councilor Miles Nelson said he supports the policy because of the flexibility it will provide when the unexpected happens.
“We’re all human, so those things are going to sometimes get in the way,” he said. “We can’t let that prevent us from doing our business and our job.”
According to the state law, elected officials can’t participate remotely in a meeting that has a vote that involves adopting a budget, making a reduction in personnel, initiating a referendum, imposing or increasing a fee, imposing or increasing a penalty, exercising the council’s power of eminent domain, or establishing, imposing, raising or renewing a tax.
The proposed ordinance applies only to the city council. Other governmental boards and commissions can set their own electronic participation policies.
The Carmel City Council will have the final vote on the proposed ordinance.