Changes For Douglas County Board Procedures + Policies
A final vote is needed, but it looks like there are a few policy and procedural changes coming for the Douglas County Board. The proposals are part of a process of streamlining the government body, creating efficiencies, and meeting the changing times.
One of the changes involves virtual meetings - or rather, allowing County Board members to attend some meetings in a virtual fashion. As the rules currently read, there are no provisions for allowing members to attend meetings without being in-person. According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the new procedural policy would read as follows:
"[A]ny member of the county board who has good cause not to attend a meeting in person must notify the county clerk's office within 24 hours of the meeting to inform staff they plan to attend remotely by video or audio conferencing. Supervisors who are not physically present at the meeting would be allowed to participate in discussion, but would not count toward a quorum and would not be allowed to vote."
While the changes would make for participatory allowances for rank and file members, the "board chairperson must be physically present".
That inability to vote for virtually-attending board members came under discussion by the rest of the board. Board member Kelly Peterson - who was attending the meeting virtually after testing positive for COVID-19 said that "she should be able to represent her people when a physical presence is not possible". County Supervisor Sue Hendrickson questioned "I don't understand why we're not getting out of the cave and doing like everyone else".
Board Supervisor Nick Baker also sits on the Metropolitan Interstate Council and acts as it's current co-chair. The group "meets virtually to deal with millions of dollars in federal transportation funds". He offered that on that board they "...roll call votes and (the) votes count, and we're dealing with millions of dollars. I'm not saying it's an open thing. I'm saying we give them a limit of two". He also added that "[m]y feeling is that every county board member...we would like to have at least two virtual visits where [the] vote counts".
While multiple board members lobbied that allowing virtual voting was an accepted practice across the board at other places, Douglas County Clerk Sue Sandvick countered those charges. She offered that a survey was done of the other counties in Wisconsin and "it's not true that all counties allow this".
The article in the Telegram also spells out that even though the City of Superior has created digital or virtual allowances for city councilors to attend meetings, there are "limits on when voting is allowed".
The other procedural change being considered received less discussion and review. That change would create a process for selecting a new board chairperson in the event a vacancy comes up. "Currently, if the chair resigns or dies while in office, the county would follow Roberts Rules of Order and automatically appoint the vice chair to serve as the county board chair". The problem with that policy as currently written is what happens if the vice chair isn't able to take on the full role permanently.
To rectify that problem, the board has come up with a new plan:
"Under the new procedure, the vice chair would serve temporarily as chair until the county board elects a new leader at its next regularly scheduled meeting. If the election results in a vacancy in any of the three vice chair offices, the process would continue until all offices are filled."
Both changes are pending review. The Douglas County Board will take the matters up at it's next meeting - scheduled for June 16.