May a member of a city council, village board or other municipal governmental body "attend" a meeting by telephone?
Yes, if authorized by the governing body.
Although state law does not prohibit a member of a city council,
village board or other municipal governmental body from attending a
meeting by telephone, there are at least two concerns that indicate a
need for careful consideration of this practice and authorization by the
governing body. First, telephone attendance by one or more members of a
governmental body must comply with the public's right to a reasonably
accessible public meeting established by the open meetings law.
Inadequate equipment or any other problem created by telephone
attendance of one or more members of a governmental body that impairs
the public's right of reasonable access may rise to the level of an open
meetings law violation. If so, any action taken by the governmental
body at such a meeting is subject to being voided.
Second, there is some non-Wisconsin legal
authority that indicates only the members of a governmental body that
are physically present in the same place may be counted for quorum
purposes. This issue has not yet been decided by a Wisconsin court.
Therefore, it is an open question whether Wisconsin law allows a member
of a city council, village board or other municipal governmental body
appearing by phone to be counted for purposes of establishing a quorum.