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updated: 4/10/2014 5:51 PM

Elgin gives OK to remote attendance

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The Elgin City Council's committee of the whole gave the initial OK to allow remote attendance at meetings despite the objections of three members.

The 5-3 vote Wednesday directed city staff members to draft an ordinance that would allow the practice.

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The Open Meetings Act allows members of public bodies to attend meetings by audio or video conference when they can't attend in person due to illness, emergencies, or reasons related to employment or the public body's business.

Councilman John Steffen said anyone could be faced with those situations.

"These are instances that don't call somebody's ability or desire to serve (into question)," he said.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger agreed. "There might be extenuating circumstances."

Some council members indicated they want to restrict the number of times someone can be absent.

"I would be concerned if someone used this excessively," Councilwoman Tish Powell said.

Corporation Counsel William Cogley said the council can impose its own limits. Steffen said he liked that idea.

Councilmen Terry Gavin, Toby Shaw and John Prigge voted against the initiative.

"If you're going to be part of the city council or any of its committees ... you better show up for meetings," Gavin said.

Shaw agreed. "This is a job where you need to be in front of the people."

Prigge pointed out city council hopefuls have abounded in the last few years. Fifty people have applied for 13 open seats since 2009, he said.

"We have no shortage of people who want to serve under the current conditions of serving," he said.

Councilman Rich Dunne brought up the issue for discussion. He missed a meeting in February and another in October 2012 due to his work as a fire program specialist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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