Marshfield: Town Counsel says remote participation rules are too loose

Marshfield Selectmen recently adopted a remote participation policy for all town boards and committees that allows a member to be counted as present and vote on issues in public and executive meetings.

But during the first general training session, Town Counsel Bob Marzelli explained the handful of reasons to remotely participate, as laid out by the Attorney General, could lead to trouble for Marshfield, “There could be a situation where a board member wanted to participate remotely and was allowed to and perhaps voted against something. And there might be a challenge later on the basis that they really didn’t have the grounds to participate remotely because the grounds themselves are very vaguely phrased.”

Some committee members, who attended last night’s training session, were skeptical about the new remote participation policy and how a member can vote on an issue if they can’t properly see visuals.

But Narice Casper, Secretary to the Zoning Board of Appeals, says the ZBA is on board, “There are instances when there are emergencies and board members can’t make it for a decision, not so much a public hearing where we’re being presented with new material but when the material’s already presented and they’re already aware what’s going on with a project.”

According to Marzelli, boards and committees can opt out of allowing remote participation. He said his legal suggestion to Marshfield Selectmen is to define the parameters of reasons such as personal illness and geographic distance before the policy goes into effect August 1st.

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About Trisha McNeilly

With a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Boston under her belt, Trisha McNeilly joins us full-time as a general assignment and breaking news reporter having previously interned for WBZ-1030 AM in Boston. A South Shore resident her whole life, McNeilly grew up in Pembroke and is 22-years old.