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Suffolk's Berland pulls request to videoconference meetings

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, left, and Legis. Susan

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, left, and Legis. Susan Berland. Credit: James Escher

A debate about allowing Suffolk County legislators to vote by videoconference is on hold after Legis. Susan Berland withdrew her request to Skype into upcoming committee meetings while on vacation.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) on Monday canceled a special meeting that would have brought legislators back early from their summer recess to vote on permitting videoconferencing.

Gregory said the special meeting, planned for Wednesday, was unnecessary without Berland’s request to Skype into committees the week of Aug. 26 while she is staying at her second home, in Key West, Florida.

But the issue is not dead. Gregory said he plans to form a videoconferencing committee to evaluate potential rules and technological needs.

“With technology, it’s not unforeseeable something like this can be done in the future, but it has to be really carefully thought out,” Gregory said.

Legislative officials had opposed Berland’s request, saying the proper technology and rules were not yet in place to allow videoconferencing.

Berland (D-Dix Hills) said she withdrew her request because she could not attend the special meeting — she will still be in Florida — and because she wants to give her colleagues more time to discuss the issue. She said she will still Skype into upcoming committee meetings without being able to vote, using a laptop placed at her seat in the legislature’s auditorium  to remotely view the proceedings. 

“People should not confuse the fact I want to participate with the fact I somehow don’t want to do my job,” Berland said. “It’s the total opposite.”

Legislators had expressed doubt about whether there would have been enough votes to permit videoconferencing at the special meeting. Only 14 legislators planned to attend the meeting, Gregory said, and the Republican caucus opposed the measure.

Republican Minority Leader Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said he will “remain vehemently opposed” to allowing videoconferencing because residents expect legislators to be in their seats.

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