A message regarding the Open Meetings Act changes

Dear Clients:

We hope you are all well during this difficult time of public health emergency. There have been numerous public meetings canceled and great concern over how board operations will continue if unable to hold these public meetings. To assist in this regard, Governor Whitmer has signed executive order 2020-15 to temporarily suspend certain provisions of the Open Meetings Act that will now allow public bodies to conduct their meetings electronically. The Governor’s press release can be found below along with the link to the executive order. The executive order applies until April 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. In brief summary, the order allows for the Township Board, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and any other public body to meet remotely through telephone or video conferencing. Participating in this method is considered attendance at a public meeting, the same as if physically present. Members of the public body and the general public must be able to participate in the electronic conferencing as though present and in attendance at the meeting. There must be two-way communication for all members and the public to hear and address each other and for the public to participate during any public hearing portion of the meeting and public comment. Notice of meeting of a public body that will be held electronically must include the follow:

(i) An explanation of the reasons why the public body is meeting electronically.

(ii) Detailed procedures by which the public may participate in the meeting electronically, including a telephone number, internet address, or both.

(iii) Procedures by which the persons may contact members of the public body to provide input or ask questions on any business that will come before the body at the meeting.

(iv) Procedures by which the persons with disabilities may participate in the meeting.

Please review the executive order in detail as there are other detailed requirements beyond the above‑referenced summary. Please feel free to contact us in order to discuss procedures for carrying out electronic public meetings. We are currently working on the proper notices and procedures to carry out these electronic meetings if your township desires.

Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman, P.C.

www.michigantownshiplaw.com

Telephone: 269-382-4500

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2020
Contact: Tiffany Brown, BrownT56@michigan.gov

Gov. Whitmer Signs Executive Order Allowing Public Bodies to Meet Electronically

LANSING, Mich. -- Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-15 to order a temporarily change to the Open Meetings Act to allow public bodies to conduct their meetings electronically, while also facilitating public participation, until April 15, 2020 at 11:59PM.

“We are taking every measure we can to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and protect Michigan families, but recognize that public bodies still have an obligation to conduct business as usual,” Whitmer said. “During this crisis, we must ensure that public officials can do their job to meet the needs of residents, while also ensuring that meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public.”

Under Executive Order 2020-15, public bodies that are subject to the Open Meetings Act, including boards, commissions, committees, subcommittees, authorities, councils, and nonprofit boards, can use telephone- or video- conferencing methods to continue meeting and conducting business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis, so long as they follow certain procedures to ensure meaningful access and participation by members of the public body and the general public.

In order to maintain the level of transparency that Governor Whitmer has sought under previous executive actions taken during her first month in office, public bodies must meet the following criteria when holding a public meeting electronically:

  • Ensure two-way communication for members and the public to hear and address each other.
  • Provide adequate notice to the public of the meeting.
  • Post a public meeting notice on their website.
  • Permit participants to record or broadcast the public meeting.
  • Allow participants to address the public body during a public comment period.

The order also temporarily authorizes public bodies, departments, and agencies to use technology to enable remote participation in public comment and hearings, and temporarily excuses school boards from monthly meeting requirements.

Patients with confirmed infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19 is to:

  • If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call the nearest hospital.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

This press release will be translated and made available in Arabic and Spanish at www.michigan.gov/whitmerpressreleases.

To view Executive Order 2020-15, click the link below:

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