Will the ‘Real’ City Council President Please Stand Up?

There may or may not have been a changing of the guard during Tuesday night’s Haverhill City Council meeting.

During the meeting, City Clerk Linda Koutoulas referred to Councilor Robert H. Scatamachia as “president.” However, during council discussions on aggregation, Scatmacchia referred to John A. Michitson as “president.”

Scatamacchia, council vice president, chaired the meeting, while Michitson participated via telephone.

In 2012, city councilors adopted state legislation permitting elected officials to attend meeting by telephone or video hookups. As early as 2003, Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, at Michitson’s request, sought “legislation to authorize teleconference meetings of governmental bodies.”

The legislation requires high quality sound or video, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. said in 2012. At previous meetings, councilors and the public appeared to have a difficult time hearing Michitson.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, interpreting the state’s Open Meeting Law, reports, “Acceptable means of remote participation include telephone, internet, or satellite enabled audio or video conferencing, or any other technology that enables the remote participant and all persons present at the meeting location to be clearly audible to one another. Accommodations must be made for any public body member who requires TTY service, video relay service, or other form of adaptive telecommunications.  Text messaging, instant messaging, email and web chat without audio are not acceptable methods of remote participation.