Leading by Skype? Not at public meetings, says attorney

An interesting question for local governments has been raised in the small northern Minnesota town of Cohasset. Recently, a city councilor participated in a meeting via Skype, from somewhere in California. According to this Lisa Rosemore story in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, councilor Dennis Blankensop was involved in discussions and voted. The city believes this is not a violation of any open meeting law or other statute. Mark Anfison, attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, believes otherwise.

I’d argue that this is a slippery slope. I picture a scenario where snowbirds (who often leave just after the election) are elected to local councils and boards, and then govern from amid palm trees and desert air. We best avoid that.


  1. We need to have the legislature clarify this issue. I sit on a small town city council and am in Florida at the moment. I read the relevant statutes and saw nothing barring electronic meeting provide it was open to the public. I then left my phone number with our city clerk in case I was needed for a Quorum. Didn’t here from my fellow council members, so I assume we had quorum. Not that we had much to do… The only issue I know of was the routine payment of bills. Given how hard it is to get folks to serve on rural governing bodies, we need every option available so members can attend meetings wherever they be.

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