Salisbury City Council adopts rules to hold electronic meetings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — To adhere to gathering size limits and follow social distancing guidelines, the city council on Tuesday adopted a policy to allow members to meet electronically.

The council decided in a 4-0 vote to delete a sentence in the rules of procedure under “Remote Participation in Council Meetings” that stated “Although a member who attends a meeting electronically pursuant to such a policy may take part in debate, the member may neither be counted toward a quorum nor vote on any matter before the council.”

They adopted a policy and procedure for electronic meetings that allows them to hold an electronic meeting when “a governmental official or body has declared that a state of emergency or other disaster exists within the City of Salisbury.” The council members present will be able to vote on all items, except for quasi-judicial matters.

Since the courts are closed until June 1, City Attorney Graham Corriher said the council should be able to hold off on quasi-judicial items.

Corriher said being able to vote in an electronic meeting has been an unknown until N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein recently weighed in.

“His opinion is that these are authorized especially when we’re dealing with public health emergency and all of the guidance is to limit physically interaction and limit large gatherings of people,” Corriher said.

City Manager Lane Bailey said the details of the rules, policy and procedure can be later evaluated and modified.

“This really gets us through this situation,” Bailey said. 

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins agreed.

“If we can get in place what we need right now to bridge us over, then we can do the other pieces as we continue to move forward,” Heggins said.

Councilman David Post said several news articles say COVID-19 may return in the fall, and he wants to be prepared.

Corriher said current electronic meetings will help him determine what works when crafting a policy later.

In other business:

• The council adopted a resolution that authorized Bailey to designate essential employees, which include emergency responders in the police department, fire department and Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. The emergency responders will remain eligible for emergency sick leave and childcare provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

• The council decided to schedule a public hearing for April 21 to approve an economic incentive for Project Gauge.