This meeting was scheduled as a Special City Council Meeting because it was not a regularly scheduled meeting.  We as a council were notified on March 18 about this meeting and were told it would be a very simple agenda where the city council would simply test the feasibility of performing a City Council meeting within this new environment we are all living in.   Because the governor had passed an Executive Order, allowing a governing body to suspend the requirement of an Open Public Meeting that mandates citizens have direct access to the council but would require the public to still be able to participate via some sort of online video conferencing tool.   That Executive Order takes care of the public portion of the meeting, but our city administration misinterpreted that to say that City Council members did not need to not be present and that they could connect remotely as well. Section 2-105 of the Fremont Municipal Code states:  

majority of all the members of the City Council must be present at a regular or special meeting to constitute a quorum; but if less than such majority is present at the meeting, the majority of the Council Members present may adjourn from time to time without further notice”.

In order to override our Municipal Code, a supermajority vote of the city council is needed.  This was never done, and I believe we as a council broke our own law, which could nullify any decisions or votes made.  

By the way, I was not happy with the results of the test meeting.  The microphone and speaker systems were turned off to reduce feedback, which made it impossible to hear.  If I turned my computer volume up, so that I could hear it, it too would cause feedback throughout the system.  I appreciate the efforts that were tried during this test, but the results were not acceptable. We have a full City Council meeting scheduled for this Tuesday with several contentious agenda items and I believe we will not be able to execute our duties as a council effectively using the online video conferencing solution for public input. 

Had it been just a simple test meeting, like they first introduced it as it wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But, on Friday, March 20, an agenda item was added to the meeting to vote on a COVID-19 compensation plan for hourly workers that was sponsored by the City Administrator.  This motion was presented to the council as an emergency issue that needed to be addressed immediately and was deemed absolutely necessary. Many amendments were attempted, and most failed.  The vote to approve was unanimous. I believe this agenda item was an important topic to discuss, but I felt a vote was not appropriate at the time and that more discussion and investigation was needed.  It was poorly created and presented. Because of the haste in which this agenda item was put in front of the council, this agenda item will be back on the next City Council meeting as a Request of Reconsideration by Councilmember Yerger.  I look forward to discussing this more thoroughly, and this time allows for public commitment.

Whenever we come upon a city issue within my city council responsibilities, I always look to see how other cities have handled the same or similar issues.  For example, Omaha City Council has canceled all their City Council meetings until later in April. Lincoln will be conducting their first council meeting this Monday, with all council members present, and allowing no more than 10 people at a time in the chamber.  Even Lincoln City Council said this method would not work if there were contentious agenda items.  

In March 28th edition of the Fremont Tribune, an editorial titled ‘Maintaining transparency is vital now’ addresses this very topic and emphasizes the importance of our local governments maintaining transparency.  Please contact your city council member and ask them to reevaluate the current plan on moving forward with our City Council meetings.