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The Zoom technology has been a stellar addition to Municipal meetings in 2020. Zoom has allowed residents to participate in meetings safely from home and increased attendance during the 2020 pandemic. When it comes to meetings that the Open Public Meetings Act does not apply, such as Executive Session, Zoom meetings are not required.  Executive Sessions are closed sessions where the Highlands council meets with town attorney, Business Administrator and Town Clerk, to discuss certain sensitive topics including personnel issues and lawsuits and the public is not allowed to attend. I understand why some of the council might want those meetings to be conducted via zoom, (connect via their living room instead of getting in their car and schlepping to the Community Center), but it probably shouldn't be.

The Executive Sessions are supposed to be private. Meaning no one outside the immediate attendees are supposed to have knowledge until such a date where the meeting notes/minutes are approved, voted on and disclosed. We live in a very small town, where there are six degrees of separation between most people in some fashion. So for example, having a discussion on having the chief of police take over for the business administrator, when one of the councilperson's kids, is a police officer, a direct report to the person the council is discussing, and might have been sitting at his parents kitchen table, probably isn't the best practice. When you are having any sensitive discussions and you could have spouses, children, friends, relatives somehow connected to the sensitive discussions and potentially within earshot of said discussion, it does seem like a best practice.

Our town is less than a mile square, the community center isn't geographically challenging for anyone to get to. It's large enough to facilitate the group that would attend the executive session comfortably, properly distanced and safely. It would also appear to be a best practice to conduct the Executive Sessions there. I would also ponder, if there are any legalities of having non-council family and friends sit in on the closed/Executive sessions via Zoom?

 

Melissa Pedersen

Highlands Republican Committee Chair

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