Haverhill’s Michitson Calls on State Not to Weaken Rules Requiring Remote Access to Public Meetings

John A. Michitson addresses supporters at his campaign kickoff party for City Council re-election on May 8, 2019 at Maria's Restaurant in Haverhill. (WHAV News file photograph)

The governor is trying to change the provision of the Open Meeting Law that requires cities and towns to provide remote access to public meetings, but one elected Haverhill official thinks the plan is shortsighted.

Haverhill City Councilor John A. Michitson told his colleagues Tuesday night the state should leave the pandemic-era policy alone.

“She basically wants to give an opt-out to cities and towns because they may have technical difficulties, and I would like to recommend that we send a letter to our delegation keeping the current policy at the state level,” he said.

Healey’s proposed Municipal Empowerment Act allows hybrid meetings, but does not endorse remote access or ensure it will continue.

“It’s far too important, right, to have people have an opportunity that can’t make it here, to call in, and then if we’re on business travel, for example, we can still call into the meeting and do our job, fulfill our responsibility,” Michitson said. “What we don’t want to do is leave any leeway in there for anybody to change it.”

He added he has been championing remote access since a hearing before the state legislature in 2003, when the idea was overwhelmingly voted down. The council approved Michitson’s letter. Councilor Melissa J. Lewandowski said the council should look into anti-hacking measures, as individuals will occasionally disrupt meetings with sounds or images.

A group of open meeting law supporters, including disability and free press advocates, wrote a letter to Healey in February criticizing the bill.

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