NEWS/VIEWS – CALIFORNIA, USA: The hazards of the new way of doing business have been exposed in this little story from Vallejo, California. Zoom is a business which allows a multi-party, remote online conference to take place. It is like Skype but with many people and it gets over the coronavirus lockdown social distancing restrictions.
The trouble is that people are presenting themselves to work colleagues from their homes. Therefore cats and dogs can come into view. Also there may be stuff lying around or books on a bookshelf behind the camera which reveals information about the person that would be better kept private.
In this instance, during a public online meeting, Vallejo planning commissioner Chris Platzer appears to have had a drink or two before starting the online conference call on 20 April and was drinking on camera. His cat companion joined him as a cat might because they sometimes think you are talking to them when you are talking to someone online. Platzer was asked for his comments on a planning application. His cat started to meow which prompted him to pick up his cat in front of his computer’s camcorder and introduces him/her to his work colleagues – ‘OK, first, I’d like to introduce my cat’.
Platzer then unfortunately throws his cat off-screen. There was a brief squeek from his cat and a thud. Some of his colleagues laughed while others found the behavior unacceptable. One of them buried their face in their hands.
Platzer also allegedly said, ‘I am going to call bullshit on all you bitches’ while on camera but after the meeting but the cameras were still rolling. I am not sure if he was referring to fellow commissioners. He probably was. The city decided that he had to go and made an official resolution to that effect on 28 April. The resolution states:
‘During the public portion of the meeting, Planning Commissioner Platzer was observed opening and drinking an alcoholic beverage and tossing his pet cat through the air…..’
Platzer resigned as his time as a commissioner was due to expire on June 30.
‘I did not conduct myself in the Zoom meeting in a manner befitting of a planning commissioner and apologise for any harm I may have inflicted’ he wrote in a letter to the Vallejo Times-Herald.
COMMENT: As I mentioned, online Zoom conferencing carries risks. People dress informally at home. The strictures of office life are left behind and this loosening of self-discipline can lead to unfortunate ‘accidents’. I don’t think Platzer is cruel to his cat. I sense that he likes his cat and that they have a good relationship. It appears to be the booze talking. He was showing off.