Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, June 10 @ 1:15 p.m. / Local Government
Crescent City Council Supports Proposed Teleconferencing Changes; Approves CCPD's Military Equipment Policy
Crescent City Councilors threw their support behind an assembly bill that would allow elected officials to participate in meetings remotely without having to identify their location or make it accessible to the public.
Assembly Bill 1944 seeks to modernize the Ralph M. Brown Act by expanding the use of teleconferencing at public meetings, according to the city’s staff report. According to City Attorney Martha Rice, who was participating in Monday’s meeting remotely herself, a quorum has to approve by majority vote that a colleague can participate via teleconferencing.
“This option could have been used multiple times over the last couple of years by various Council members in various situations,” she said. “Some of it might be a sickness. Some of it might be the fact they an’t attend because they’re out of town. At times, this has kept us from getting all five Council members, or even four Council members to be able to vote on some fairly large items that we’ve had.”
Late last year, the Council postponed its annual mayor and mayor pro tem appointment four times due to the absence of one or more colleagues.
On Monday, four Councilors voted in favor of sending a letter of support for AB 1944 to state legislators. Mayor Jason Greenough was absent.
According to City Manager Eric Wier, however, if it’s approved, AB 1944 wouldn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2024, after an executive order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom during the COVID-19 pandemic to suspend restrictions governing teleconferencing has expired.
Wier urged Councilors to add language to their letter asking state Legislators to make the proposed law effective immediately if it’s approved.
Crescent City Councilor Blake Inscore said that while he supports AB 1944 and wants to see it go into effect sooner than 2024, he’s concerned that it provides a pathway for people to “just choose not to attend.” However, he added that he wasn’t concerned that would be the case with the Crescent City Council.
“I think there is a dynamic there that could exist that all of a sudden, now I’m not feeling up to going, which I think part of being a public servant is sitting in these chairs,” Insecure said. “Having public access via teleconferencing and so forth is great, but one of the things that was said during COVID is people didn’t feel like they had the personal access to people.”
According to Rice, in addition to allowing a local governing official to participate in public meetings via teleconferencing, AB 1944 also allows that governing body to update their agenda “for this purpose only.”
“If you were to find out that same day or the day before, you’d just need to update the agenda as soon as you know,” she said.
In other matters, the City Council finally adopted an ordinance that establishes the Crescent City Police Department’s policy governing military equipment.
Military equipment could include unmanned aerial or ground vehicles, command and control vehicles, pepper balls, less lethal shotguns, less lethal 40 mm projectile launchers, long-range acoustic devices and flash bangs, according to Rice.
CCPD’s military equipment policy is part of Assembly Bill 481 that lists the description, quantity, capabilities, lifespan, manufacturer product descriptions, purpose and authorize use for each piece military equipment. The policy must also provide procedures for the public to register complaints, concerns or to submit questions regarding any specific type of military equipment.
“After this policy is adopted, the police department will have to annually report to the Council on the use of military equipment for each calendar year,” Rice said. “And the Council must approve the policy even if there are no changes on an annual basis.”
On Monday, CCPD Chief Richard Griffin said he would be returning to the Council soon regarding the purchase of a drone with grant dollars filtered through the Office of Emergency Services. The drone will be used in the event of a tsunami, for jetty rescues or on a major crime scene or traffic accident, he said.
Griffin reiterated that the equipment discussed in his department’s policy aren’t items that came to CCPD via the military. This includes the drone he hopes to purchase.
“That does qualify under this program, so we’d have to revisit it again,” he said.
According to Rice, the military equipment ordinance will take effect July 6.