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Omicron prompts city board to amend attendance policy

by David Showers | January 13, 2022 at 4:04 a.m.
The five board members who physically attended Tuesday’s special-called meeting amended the Hot Springs Board of Directors’ virtual attendance policy. - Photo by David Showers of The Sentinel-Record

City directors can vote on agenda items and participate in meetings remotely for the next 90 days, after voting 4-1 to amend the Hot Springs Board of Directors' virtual attendance policy at a special-called meeting Tuesday.

The ordinance amending the policy was the only item of business. It was adopted with an emergency clause, putting it into immediate effect.

The seven-member board lacked the five members needed to suspend the rule requiring an ordinance be read in its entirety at three separate meetings at its Jan. 4 business meeting. With only four members in board chambers, the board had to remove the two ordinances on the agenda.

District 1 Director Erin Holliday was unable to attend the Jan. 4 meeting after testing positive for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection earlier that day. A family emergency prevented District 6 Director Steve Trusty from attending, and District 2 Director Elaine Jones was recovering from a hospital stay unrelated to COVID-19.

The five members physically present in board chambers Tuesday agreed to suspend the rule requiring an ordinance be read in its entirety at three separate meetings. Holliday attended virtually but was unable to vote on the ordinance amending the virtual attendance policy. Jones wasn't in board chambers and didn't participate remotely.

Tuesday's action allows directors to vote and participate remotely for the next 90 days, even in the absence of a public health emergency as declared by an executive order of the governor. Per the ordinance the board adopted in August that amended the virtual attendance policy it adopted in March 2020, a statewide public health emergency was required for remote voting.

The 60-day emergency the governor declared in July expired at the end of September, ending the remote option for city directors.

District 4 Director Carroll Weatherford opposed the amendment adopted Tuesday. He also opposed the virtual attendance policy the board adopted at the onset of the pandemic.

"If you're elected, you need to be here," Weatherford, who pledged to attend all agenda and business meetings when he ran for the open District 4 seat in 2018, said Tuesday.

Print Headline: Omicron prompts city board to amend attendance policy

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