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Cohasset Councilor Skypes in From California

Posted at: 04/09/2013 11:46 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Some Northland officials have begun using video conferencing for public meetings. The city of Cohasset had the technology approved by the state of Minnesota.

The Cohasset City Council meets at the city hall every other Tuesday, but Mayor Greg Hagy said that one member is now attending meetings over the internet.

“It's not like he's sitting here, but it's about as close as you can get,” Mayor Hagy said.

He was talking about council member Dennis Blankensop. Blankensop is spending four months, January through April, at a retirement home in Palm Springs California.

He has been using an iPad and Skype to sit in on meetings since January, and Hagy said there have been no complaints so far.

“As far as people complaining or objecting, if they want to come to the meeting and talk to him they certainly can. We haven't really had a problem with that yet. I haven't really had any complaints,” Hagy said.

Some thought the technology may violate Minnesota Open Meeting Law. However the the council waited for approval from the Minnesota Department of Administration before Blankensop cast his first virtual vote last month.

Eyewitness news spoke to Blankensop via Skype before Tuesday's meeting. Blankensop said  he has spent about two months in Palm Springs every winter for several years. He also said he told voters about his planned absence during his campaign for city council.

So the the mayor and other council members searched for a way to keep him involved, and Skype was the way to do that.

“Everybody knows Denny and they voted for him, so we're just allowing him to do the job he was elected to do,” Hagy said.

Only time will tell how voters will respond to Blankensop's Skype attendance, but he will be back in person soon. Mayor Hagy expects him in Cohasset for the next council meeting early in May.