Commissioner Withdraws Request to Attend Meetings via Skype After Outcry

Posted at 6:57 PM, Nov 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-19 18:57:02-05

HASTINGS, Mich. — FOX 17 first reported about the Barry County Commissioner who wanted to Skype into public meetings from Florida last Friday.  Since that time, the public outcry has been so strong that he decided to drop the issue.

“Those of you who think that local politics is still about sitting in a local coffee shop and hashing it out with the good old boys just don’t get it,” said Barry County Commissioner Jim DeYoung.

Although he’s still defending his position, Jim DeYoung is backing off of his request to vote to change the by-laws in order to be able to attend public meetings via Skype or electronic media.  He said this decision was prompted by “public feedback.”

The public began weighing in in large numbers following our report Friday.  DeYoung said while some people understood his position on the issue, most of those comments were negative.

“Ultimately we are responsible to our constituents to represent them,” he said.

During his statements in the commission meeting, DeYoung called some of those who opposed his request “dinosaurs.”

“There are dinosaurs and naysayers out there who yelled and stomped their feet and beat their chest about how bad we are if we don’t believe the same things,” he said.

That comment drew what sounded like a snicker from one of the other commissioners who was also on the microphone.

Commission Chair Craig Stolsonburg came out openly against the request to Skype from the start.  DeYoung mentioned that he had made it personal.

“Our board chairman, in a passing flip statement, made this about me and not about electronic attendance,” DeYoung said.

Stolsonburg responded that he didn’t intend to make the situation personal.

“I felt at the time that Commissioner DeYoung was not up front with the rest of the board as to the scope of how long he was planning on being gone for the the year or being absent from meetings,” he said.

He said he feels the issue will come up again, but Stolsonburg feels if Skyping is ever allowed, they need more money in the budget to pull it off properly.

“We do have the capability. But, we don’t have the resources in terms of manpower,” said Stolsonburg.

He also said there needs to be a limit on how often commissioners would be allowed to Skype in if it ever became a reality.

Although DeYoung made a motion to remove the item from the agenda Tuesday, he said at some point the commission will have to address it.

“Even our most personal relationship of doctor-patient is going virtual. So, it’s going to happen sooner or later,” DeYoung said.