Illinois (ECWd) –
Today, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker signed several Bills, including SB2135, which created the Governmental Administration Act (“GAA”).
Within the GAA are new requirements when it comes to a local government’s compliance with the Open Meetings Act during declared emergencies.
Just in case the Pecatonica Township Supervisor is reading this: “You can no longer do what you have been doing.”
Key take-aways for those who decide to have remote meetings during this or any other disaster/emergency:
- Quorum does not need to physically be at the meeting location
- Meeting Notice must be placed on the public body’s website – this is an additional requirement
- Remote members must be verified and must be able to hear one another and hear all discussion and testimony
- Members of the public present at the meeting location can hear all discussion and testimony and all votes of the members of the public body
- Remote members of the public must be able to contemporaneously hear all discussion, testimony, and roll call votes (ie: via telephone call of web-based link)
- At least one member of the body, chief legal counsel, or chief administrative officer is physically at the meeting location unless unfeasible do to the nature of the emergency
- All votes must be roll call votes
- All remote meetings must be audio or video recorded and made available to the public and are subject to the FOIA
- The public body shall bear all costs associated with compliance with this section
Please note that nothing in this Bill changed anything related to Public Comment during public meetings – so those public bodies who refused, or made public comment by letter/email only, might want to change back to the OMA’s statutory right to address the public officials during the public meeting
The language from the Bill as enrolled:
(e) Subject to the requirements of Section 2.06 but notwithstanding any other provision of law, an open or closed meeting subject to this Act may be conducted by audio or video conference, without the physical presence of a quorum of the members, so long as the following conditions are met:
(1) the Governor or the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a disaster declaration related to public health concerns because of a disaster as defined in Section 4 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, and all or part of the jurisdiction of the public body is covered by the disaster area;
(2) the head of the public body as defined in subsection (e) of Section 2 of the Freedom of Information Act determines that an in-person meeting or a meeting conducted under this Act is not practical or prudent because of a disaster;
(3) all members of the body participating in the meeting, wherever their physical location, shall be verified and can hear one another and can hear all discussion and testimony;
(4) for open meetings, members of the public present at the regular meeting location of the body can hear all discussion and testimony and all votes of the members of the body, unless attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the disaster, including the issued disaster declaration, in which case the public body must make alternative arrangements and provide notice pursuant to this Section of such alternative arrangements in a manner to allow any interested member of the public access to contemporaneously hear all discussion, testimony, and roll call votes, such as by offering a telephone number or a web-based link;
(5) at least one member of the body, chief legal counsel, or chief administrative officer is physically present at the regular meeting location, unless unfeasible due to the disaster, including the issued disaster declaration; and
(6) all votes are conducted by roll call, so each member’s vote on each issue can be identified and recorded.
(7) Except in the event of a bona fide emergency, 48 hours’ notice shall be given of a meeting to be held pursuant to this Section. Notice shall be given to all members of the public body, shall be posted on the website of the public body, and shall also be provided to any news media who has requested notice of meetings pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 2.02 of this Act. If the public body declares a bona fide emergency:
(A) Notice shall be given pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 2.02 of this Act, and the presiding officer shall state the nature of the emergency at the beginning of the meeting.
(B) The public body must comply with the verbatim recording requirements set forth in Section 2.06 of this Act.
(8) Each member of the body participating in a meeting by audio or video conference for a meeting held pursuant to this Section is considered present at the meeting for purposes of determining a quorum and participating in all proceedings.
(9) In addition to the requirements for open meetings under Section 2.06, public bodies holding open meetings under this subsection (e) must also keep a verbatim record of all their meetings in the form of an audio or video recording. Verbatim records made under this paragraph (9) shall be made available to the public under, and are otherwise subject to, the provisions of Section 2.06.
(10) The public body shall bear all costs associated with compliance with this subsection (e).