HUGHSON — A request on tonight's City Council agenda shows Councilman Thom Crowder intends to keep his seat, despite a critical grand jury report calling for his resignation or removal from office for a variety of alleged violations.
Citing several surgeries planned over the next two months, Crowder is asking the city to accommodate his participation in council meetings by phone.
In an e-mail to City Manager Joe Donabed, Crowder said he will be at tonight's meeting, but after that "the City should be prepared to make special accommodations."
Crowder has missed several meetings in recent months because of medical problems and surgeries on his knee.
Deputy City Attorney Daniel Schroeder said in a staff report that the Brown Act, which regulates government meetings, allows teleconferencing as long as the public can attend the meeting wherever the council member is.
But, he said, that brings up considerations for how to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires that any public building must be accessible to people with disabilities. Meeting ADA requirements could mean anything from providing transportation from Crowder's house to the regular meeting site to making improvements at his home.
If that's the case, Crowder said in his e-mail, "it will be the responsibility of the City to make such required changes given the business being conducted is the City's."
Crowder, who could not be reached for comment, said in another e-mail to Donabed that any handicapped member of the public could enter his home through the garage. Unlike the front door, there is no step in the garage.
Schroeder said because Crowder's request was submitted late, he didn't have time to fully research the issue but will present a report to the council tonight.
Modesto faced a similar situation last year, when then-Councilman Will O'Bryant participated in meetings by phone. O'Bryant, undergoing chemotherapy treatments, could not make all the council meetings but took part from his home.
City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said the issue of ADA compliance never arose. And as far as she knew, nobody sought to attend the meeting at O'Bryant's house.
It's not uncommon to have council members participate by phone for a variety of reasons.
"We've had council members traveling to different parts of the world," Wood said. They would participate by telephone from a hotel lobby. To meet Brown Act requirements, the meeting would be posted at the satellite location and the council member would have a speaker phone so if anyone chose to attend the meeting there, he or she could participate.
"It worked really well," she said. "For the Modesto City Council, it was in light of trying to get council members' participation in every meeting to conduct the public's business."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.