Paddock Lake to keep meeting attendance options open for board members

A discussion by the Paddock Lake Village Board on Wednesday on whether to continue to allow board members to attend meetings remotely prompted two trustees to say they might resign — for different reasons.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier this year the board amended a village ordinance to allow all or just some board members to attend meetings though virtual audio or video connections.

On Wednesday, village President Terry Burns proposed going forward with another change offering two options: In-person meetings with certain COVID-19 spread prevention provisions or full virtual meetings with prior approval of five of the seven members.

Burns proposed arranging the meeting room for 6-foot separation and requiring mask wearing when entering and leaving the room. A person could remove their mask once in their place.

Trustee Kathy Christenson, who was present on speaker phone on Wednesday, said she was not comfortable with attending board meetings with voluntary mask wearing and she would prefer to continue to attend remotely. If the board opted to not allow individual board members to attend via phone or video link, then she would probably have to eventually resign since she would not be fulfilling her duties as a trustee.

“I am not going to sit there if some people don’t wear a mask, not in a room that size,” Christenson said. “It’s not worth risking my family’s health.” Christenson said she takes care of a 100-plus-year-old family member.

Given that there is a posted requirement for wearing a mask in the municipal building, village attorney Jeff Davison advised not appearing to have a different policy for board meetings or any meeting within the building’s walls.

“You have to have a rule and you have┬áto abide by that rule,” Davison said. “If you have a rule that everyone should have a mask on in the building then they should have a mask on. If you have elected officials that don’t have them on they shouldn’t be here.”

That prompted Trustee Scott Garland — the only board member or village staff member not wearing a mask — to offer to resign. One of two audience members also was not wearing a mask during the meeting.

“I would be happy to resign,” Garland said.

A second possibility of a trustee resignation seemed to alarm village administrator Tim Popanda.

“We can’t be losing two public officials,” Popanda said.

Ultimately, the board settled on two avenues: To create a policy solidifying the mask wearing requirement in the building and continue to allow individual members to attend meetings (except closed sessions) via phone or audio/video computer link.

That would allow Christenson to attend most meetings remotely to avoid the possibility of non mask wearing and also allow Garland to attend remotely in order to not make others uncomfortable with his lack of mask wearing.

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