‘Zoom raid’ of St. Joseph County commission meeting could result in return to in-person meetings

The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners discussed the possibility of returning to in-person meetings after Tuesday’s virtual meeting was interrupted by internet trolls in a practice called “Zoombombing” or “Zoom raiding.” Unidentified persons briefly hurled racist and homophobic epithets at commissioners and those in attendance before Chairperson Dennis Allen temporarily stopped the meeting.

Once commissioners and attendees returned to the Zoom meeting room, the aforementioned culprits returned momentarily before being ousted again. The rest of Tuesday’s meeting went uninterrupted after an online waiting room was established but the intrusion dramatically increased the meeting’s pace, and prompted a brief discussion among commissioners about returning to in-person meetings in March.

County Administrator Teresa Dohering and Commissioners Ken Malone, Jared Hoffmaster, and Allen all expressed a desire to return to in-person meetings. Hoffmaster suggested continuing some sort of live stream in conjunction with a return to in-person meetings to ensure county residents still have access if they decide not to attend meetings in Centreville. Dohering said capacity would be limited, and some preparation would be necessary prior reinstating in-person meetings but added she would add the topic to next week’s executive meeting agenda.

In other business…

Commissioners approved revisions to its executive committee meeting dates and times, and a request for an exception to the hiring freeze from County Prosecutor Dave Marvin to hire an assistant prosecuting attorney.

A Sturgis Foundation YAC Grant was approved, as was an amendment to the county’s intergovernmental agreement with Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health. An unbudgeted capital item concerning equipment for St. Joseph County Central Dispatch, and an agreement with Tyler Technologies for jury software were also approved.

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.