In an effort to keep the public safe while continuing the work of county government, the Putnam County Legislature will hold all of its future meetings virtually, by conference call or video conference, until further notice. The meetings will be livestreamed on the web so that the public can view them in real time.
The move to virtual meetings is a temporary solution in a difficult time, said Toni Addonizio, chairwoman of the Legislature.
“As you may know, certain New York counties, such as Dutchess County, are canceling all of their April meetings,” Addonizio said. “As elected Legislators, we believe we all have an obligation to fulfill our oath of office and our duties under the Putnam County Charter by making every effort to continue our Legislative meetings and avoiding the disruption of essential services for all Putnam County residents.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order on March 12, that temporarily modifies the requirements of the state Open Meetings Law and allows public meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service. His order expires April 11, but can be extended.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell issued a State of Emergency on March 13 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and shortly after issued an Executive Order that limited the size of public gatherings in the county to fewer than 20 people.
Deputy Legislature Chairman Neal L. Sullivan said the resolution to hold virtual Legislative meetings complies with both of those directives and will help limit the spread of coronavirus.
“The most important thing now is public safety,” Sullivan said. “We needed to find a way to follow state and county mandates that limit the size of gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak, while also continuing to fulfill our duties as elected officials.”
Sullivan is also chairman of the Legislature’s Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which approved the resolution for the virtual meetings before forwarding it to the Legislature, where it passed in a vote on Thursday, March 26.
The key provisions of the adopted resolution include:
- Allowing Legislators to participate in meetings (including voting) by conference call or videoconference;
- Closing meetings to the general public, but allowing for the attendance of persons necessary for proper consideration of agenda items;
- Allowing members of the press to attend meetings so that they may continue to report on Legislative proceedings to the public;
- Requiring that any Legislative meeting closed to the public be observable by the public by audio and/or video in real-time, such as by livestreaming (webcast);
- Requiring the transcription of all meetings and proceedings closed to the public;
- Limiting the agenda items for all meetings to time-sensitive and/or essential business; and
- Requiring timely public notice of all Legislative meetings as well as instructions on how to access the audio and/or video of non-public meetings.
The audio webcast link for each meeting will be posted prior to the start of the meeting on the Legislature’s page on the Putnam County website, at https://www.putnamcountyny.com/legi/