State candidates weigh in on electronic ‘attendance’

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Seldom have we seen someone on the wrong side of an issue as Sunset Hills Ward 3 Alderman Keith Kostial and his insistence on “attending” meetings via videoconferencing.

While Kostial has a few uninformed and misguided supporters, we don’t understand how they can defend an elected official who has “attended” more aldermanic meetings via videoconferencing than in person since December. Since then, Kostial has participated in nine aldermanic meetings through electronic means and attended just seven in person.

While we firmly believe elected officials have an obligation to physically attend meetings of the body to which they were elected, Kostial contends his physical presence is not required at board meetings, as his job frequently takes him out of state. He repeatedly has cited a 2013 change to the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act to allow roll-call votes to be cast by elected officials attending a meeting “via videoconferencing.”

But a majority of current state elected officials and those seeking state office in November who responded to a Call questionnaire believe that electronic “attendance” at meetings should be the rare exception and not the rule. Just consider:

• “… There are often valid reasons for an elected official to not attend a meeting, but videoconferencing should not be a substitute for attendance on a regular basis. If you can’t make the meetings, let someone else represent voters.” — Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville.

• “FaceTime or video chatting should be reserved for rare, emergency situations. If elected, a public servant should show up for meetings.” — Democrat Glenn Koenen of Oakville, who is challenging Haefner.

• “… I believe that a member’s use of video conference attendance should occur only sparingly … I believe that the public body should consider adopting a policy establishing parameters for video conference attendance of meetings by their members.” — Rep. Cloria Brown of Lemay.

• “I believe that a public official should attend at least a majority of public meetings in person and only use videoconferencing on an occasional basis.” — former Rep. Vicki Lorenz Englund, D-Green Park, who is challenging Brown.

It’s simple: We believe it’s time for Kostial to start attending the majority of aldermanic meetings in person, fulfilling the responsibilities of the post to which he was elected. If he cannot, he should resign his seat.