(LAPORTE COUNTY, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday night was held strictly by Zoom, which resulted in criticism.
La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Alan Stevens alleged Commission President Sheila Matias called for a Zoom meeting to discourage political opponents from speaking out publicly. Stevens said Matias was recently at a packed Democratic Party fundraiser at Blue Chip Casino yet claims the Zoom meeting was necessary to protect the public from a potential spread of COVID-19.
"15 to 20 people attending a socially distanced public meeting are the least of our concerns. Schools are in session. The county offices are open. Public transportation is running. Stores are open. People are going to work daily, and, yes, even party fundraisers at crowded casinos are occurring," Stevens said.
Initially, Matias seemed frustrated at what's become a more than one-year-long political boxing match at Commissioners' meetings. However, Matias said there were no conspiracies at play in ordering a Zoom meeting or anything else underhanded or evil as her opponents like to allege on just about everything. Matias hopes to get back to regular face-to-face meetings as soon as the current COVID-19 surge diminishes to a safer level.
"This was merely to try to make sure that we are protecting the public.—no other nefarious things. We're just trying to make sure we are protecting the public," Matias said.
La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz did not attend the Zoom out of protest, claiming it was against state law to hold a meeting where physical attendance by the public was not an option. La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman disagreed and held up a copy of the law.
Recently, the Michigan City Common Council and La Porte City Council members began holding their meetings strictly via Zoom because of the COVID-19 surge.
Under Governor Eric Holcomb's Emergency Declaration extended into January 2022, local governments can meet via Zoom or another online medium so long as a quorum of the members meets by electronic communication or in person, and the public can attend and observe the meeting simultaneously.