Ulster town council members are considering a local law to allow its members to participate in town board meetings remotely when they’re outside of municipal boundaries. The law would only impact members of the town board and no other municipal boards.
The legislation stems from New York State rules established by executive order at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and adopted a year later by the state Legislature as a special law renewable at the direction of the governor on a monthly basis. According to the state law, local government meetings ordinarily held in person can be held remotely instead, provided the public has the ability to view or listen to the meeting, and it’s is recorded and archived.
That state law doesn’t specify where elected officials must be during remote meeting, but separate state legislation for municipalities says that all meetings should be held within town boundaries.
New Paltz town board member Julie Seyfert Lillis has been doing this for the past two years while spending part of the summer in Wyoming. The town’s official notice of the meeting says “The New Paltz Town Board meetings for the dates/times listed below, will be held at the Community Center, 3 Veterans Drive in New Paltz and at the Park County Public Library, 1500 Heart Mountain Street in Cody, Wyoming….”
In a timely fashion…
During an Ulster Town Board meeting Thursday, January 20, Supervisor James E. Quigley, III said the town’s proposed legislation was in response to an article in Association of Towns, a bi-monthly magazine for New York.
“The state law has a requirement that all town boards must conduct their meetings from within the boundaries of the town, but is silent on members participating from outside the town,” Quigley said. “So under the home rule provision of the New York state constitution, it was recommended that towns that may have an opportunity for a board member to participate outside of the town of Ulster boundary.”
The proposed legislation reads, “It is the intent of this local law to give town board members the authority to participate in town board meetings via videoconference from locations that fall outside the town’s geographical boundaries…Videoconferencing has proven to be an effective and useful tool for town board meetings that allows members to participate despite issues such as inclement weather, illness, or travel plans.”
The proposed legislation also specifies a need to be able to overcome potential quorum issues to tackle town business in a timely manner.
Quigley said he expects the proposed law to be further discussed during a town board meeting scheduled for Thursday, February 3, at which point a public hearing could be set.