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North Adams Council Seeks Candidates for Vacant Seat
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
04:14PM / Wednesday, July 29, 2020
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Tuesday's City Council meeting was plagued with technical difficulties and cut short with a number of agenda items moved to the next meeting.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council is looking for applicants interested in filling out the final year of a two-year term. 
 
Anyone interested in the position can submit a letter of interest to the city clerk by Friday, Aug. 7, at 1 p.m. The council will take up the matter at its first August meeting. 
 
The council seat became vacant with the resignation of Robert Moulton Jr., who came under fire for comments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 on his public access television show last week. The council and School Committee, on which he also sits, were prepared to vote a resolution on censuring him Tuesday night.  
 
Moulton resigned Monday morning, leaving two seats open. The School Committee will address it vacancy at its regular meeting next week. 
 
The council has used different ways in dealing with a vacant seat, including not filling it. 
 
On Tuesday, councilors questioned how the process would occur. Councilor Jason LaForest said his concern was that there be a process in place "before the meeting begins so there isn't any confusion."
 
Councilor Benjamin Lamb, who was president the last time a vacancy was filled, said the candidates were given time at the beginning of the meeting to state their qualifications and reasoning for wanting to serve. 
 
"We did not specifically get to comments on the candidates [from the public] but they could have been brought up during hearing of visitors, if their names are on the agenda," he said. 
 
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson, who was voted into the vacancy in 2017, said he had not been sworn in and seated at that meeting but rather later so he could at the next meeting. 
 
Councilor Keith Bona thought 10 days would be sufficient to get candidates. 
 
"I know we've had two candidates express interest already," he said.
 
President Paul Hopkins said he would send the information on the selection process to councilors prior to the meeting. 
 
The discussion ended a meeting plagued with technical difficulties despite the presence of two staff from the information technology department. The city has been using the Zoom digital platform to hold remote meetings since the closure of City Hall four months ago because of the novel coronavirus. On Tuesday, some councilor were in chambers and others at home but their connections kept getting lost and their audio was coming in and out, forcing people to repeat themselves so everyone could hear. 
 
LaForest has been outspoken over a number of meetings about the constant difficulties in using the virtual platform and the need for better digital infrastructure in the building. 
 
"These are the same problems we were having last meeting," he said. "I was told it was because people were not muting their microphones." 
 
Bona said he was sorry he came to chambers instead of logging in from home because now he was getting echoes as the councilors who were with him spoke -- and then could be heard 3 seconds later through the laptops.
 
Councilor Lisa Blackmer has had to cancel one committee meeting because technical issues. 
 
Early in the meeting, councilors were already so frustrated that Hopkins called a 5 minute recess to give IT time to address the issues. The members were told that there problems with Zoom nationwide and also that the chambers wifi router was dead. 
 
Wilkinson moved to adjourn at 8:02 p.m. and got a second. 
 
"This is tortuous, you can't hear half the stuff and you can't hear any answers," he said. "I've had enough."
 
"Given the fact that Zoom is down across most of the country and the difficulty, we're having in this room, I think it's appropriate at this time to adjourn," LaForest said. "The wifi router is dead so we're depending on technology for which we have no infrastructure ... we've got to stop blaming COVID for our ability not have a meeting."
 
Wilkinson reluctantly withdrew his motion so the vacancy discussion could occur and then the meeting again moved to close, with a number of issues postponed to the next meeting. 
 
"I think people are getting a little tired of this meeting," said Hopkins. 
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