As reported in last week’s CVN, “local government specialists” see no issue with our Mayor attending assembly meetings by teleconference and voting when needed. Their advice: “Since the specific situation wasn’t in code…the situation is permissible.” Interpretational methodology in the Constitution argues strongly to the contrary.

In his lecture series, constitutional law scholar Burt Neuborne argues the ninth and tenth amendments provide an operations manual for interpreting constitutional text. The ninth states citizens possess more rights than those specifically mentioned in the Constitution. However, when it comes to government power, the tenth states the federal government retains only those powers expressly enumerated in the Constitution’s text. Thus, when constitutional text is vague, Neuborne argues it should be construed broadly to favor freedom in cases involving citizen rights. In turn, he argues vague constitutional text should be construed narrowly to limit power in cases involving the federal government.

This methodology applies here. Haines Borough Code 2.10.210 (B) explicitly grants assembly members the power to attend meetings by teleconference for the purpose of voting. However, the text does not specifically prohibit the Mayor from exercising this power. Because a government power is involved, the methodology guides us to interpret the text narrowly. Therefore, because the Mayor is excluded from the text, a narrow reading grants only assembly members this power.

Mike Denker