Meeting attendance comes with holding elected office

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Being elected to a public office carries with it many responsibilities.

Foremost among those responsibilities is attending meetings of the body to which you were elected. By attending meetings, we mean an elected official is expected to be physically present at those meetings.

We also firmly believe that residents want their elected officials to be physically present at board meetings.

In 2013, the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act was amended to allow roll-call votes to be cast by elected officials attending a meeting “via videoconferencing.”

In one of the rare instances that we agree with Gov. Jay Nixon, he vetoed the measure. However, the General Assembly overrode Nixon’s veto.

While elected officials are permitted to vote in meetings via videoconferencing, governmental bodies are able to establish parameters for such participation.

We believe an elected official’s participation at meetings through videoconferencing should be the rare exception — not the rule.

But for Sunset Hills Ward 3 Alderman Keith Kostial, attendance at meetings via videoconferencing is becoming the rule — not the exception — as his job frequently takes him to Wisconsin.

As reported today by the Call’s Gloria Lloyd, Kostial has voted by video at half the board’s meetings in the last six months.

That’s simply unacceptable.

We understand his need to make a living, but he ran for alderman knowing full well the responsibilities the office entailed.

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen was set to discuss Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — whether to regulate members’ video attendance at meetings.

Certainly emergencies will arise from time to time necessitating a member to attend via videconferencing, but we believe it’s reasonable to impose limits on such participation.

Kostial’s election last year as alderman was not exactly an overwhelming mandate by voters, as he won by three votes over Lori Scarlett. We can’t help but believe that if voters would have been aware of his inability to attend the majority of meetings in person that the outcome would have been different.

As such, if Kostial can’t guarantee his physical attendance at board meetings on a regular basis, he should consider resigning so someone can be appointed who will represent his or her constituents in person.