WALLINGFORD — The Town Council meeting held remotely Tuesday was interrupted twice by graphic sexual content broadcast on the audio and video feed by an unknown party.
Further incidents could affect public participation in future meetings just as the budget process is about to kick off in town, said Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni.
The Town Council is scheduled to start talks on Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year with a public hearing tonight.
Budget workshops with department heads are scheduled to begin Thursday and continue through May 20.
Cervoni said Wednesday that the plan is to see how tonight’s meeting goes and then make a decision on how to proceed with the workshops.
“If this continues, and there’s not a platform out there that addresses this problem,” he said, “then we’re going to have to figure out if there’s a way to allow public participation while screening, and if there is not, then the rest of the budget is going to occur without public participation.”
The town uses the video conferencing platform GoToMeeting, chosen as an alternative to another live streaming service, Zoom, from which the term “Zoombombing” derives.
Zoombombing occurs when someone joins or hijacks a virtual meeting and broadcasts offensive content, such as hate speech or pornography.
The town pays $30 a month for the GoToMeeting service, which includes toll-free dial-in ability for participants, Cervoni said.
He said that GoToMeeting has no pre-screening option, unlike Zoom which as a “waiting room” feature that allows the host to control when a participant joins a meeting.
“This wasn’t like a hack on Zoom,” Cervoni said. “This was somebody who was able to retrieve the information that was published and used that direct information to get invovled with the call.”Tuesday’s interruption
The first interruption was audio only and came about half an hour into the meeting during a discussion on amending the funding ordinance for Community Pool. Councilor Jason Zandri was speaking.
A man’s voice broke in and lewdly described a sex act, making three interruptions that lasted for a few seconds at a time. Cervoni disconnected the caller and discussion resumed.
A video caller dialed in a few minutes later. A video appeared on the screen of a naked man touching himself. His face was not in the frame. Cervoni disconnected the video in less than a minute.
As the meeting concluded, Cervoni said that the graphic content will be reported to the police for investigation, and that future inappropriate conduct won't be tolerated.
"We have gone to great lengths to have public meetings during this difficult time,” Cervoni said Tuesday, “and people who show no respect to this council, and disrespect to this council, by interfering the way that was done, you'll be found and prosecuted."
Cervoni said Wednesday that he remained vigilant during the rest of the meeting and prevented an anonymous caller from logging into the meeting “possibly a half a dozen times.”