Council Recesses Mid-Hearing Amid Issues

MELROSE, MA — Someone might want to boost the IT budget.

The Appropriations Committee pulled the plug Wednesday on Night 2 of budget deliberations, a hearing that never quite got its footing. The meeting was ended after the second of two motions to recess by Councilor Shawn MacMaster following IT Director Neal Ellis informing Councilors he was unable to keep recording the meeting.

While the Council was within the Open Meeting Law to provide a transcript of the meeting and continue broadcasting live on Cisco Webex, several Councilors felt uncomfortable moving ahead in such a fashion.

The meeting got off to a rocky start when Clerk Kristen Foote told the Council the Webex server was full of storage space. Foote said she may attempt to delete some previous meetings on the server to create space, something MacMaster objected to; It is unclear if Foote deleted any. (Meetings are often taped and sent to MMTV.)

From Night 1: Post-COVID Spending Muddles Budget Deliberations

Ellis was brought aboard and informed the Councilors he could record from his computer. MacMaster motioned to call a recess, calling the optics “terrible” in a budget hearing, but was joined only by Councilors John Tramontozzi and Robb Stewart.

The hearing continued, and the Commission on Women’s $2,000 budget was approved after a brief presentation by co-Chair Rilda Kissel. But during Linda Gardener’s presentation on the library budget, Ellis interrupted to say his computer had reached the maximum capacity.

MacMaster again called for a recess, saying the reason for some Councilors voting to continue the meeting originally had changed. While he acknowledged the Council was “technically in compliance,” he said he didn’t want to have future viewers have to transition between a video and a transcript. Tramontozzi noted there was not even anyone one to take a full transcript.

Appropriations Chair Chris Cinella said minutes would suffice, and asked Ellis if someone could record the meeting on their cell phone.

MacMaster’s motion passed with renewed support, including from Tramontozzi, Stewart, Corey Thomas, Maya Jamaleddine and Jennifer Grigoraitis.

Tramontozzi was the last to vote yes, having had difficulties when first asked for his vote.

“Can you hear me?” he asked. “I’m losing coverage here.”

Councilor Jeff McNaught requested the Councilors speak after everyone else had left the virtual room. Patch was kicked out of the room shortly after. One Councilor told Patch it was a brief discussion with Ellis to make sure things would be fixed by Thursday night’s meeting — which Ellis seemed confident about — and that “there was nothing discussed that we would ever vote on.”

This article originally appeared on the Melrose Patch