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Guidance for Public Meetings and COVID-19

April 2, 2020

Below is an exerpt from Gov Ivey's April 2nd Proclamation. It provides additional guidance on Public Meetings. You can read the full text here - 2020-04-02-Fifth-Supplemental-SOE_COVID-19.pdf.

IV. Public meetings

Because person-to-person contact increases the risk of transmitting COVID-19, I find that it would promote the safety and protection of the civilian population to adopt measures that reduce the necessity of in-person meetings. To that end:

A. Notwithstanding any provision of state law, any governmental entity or quasi-governmental entity created pursuant to a state statute or municipal ordinance need not meet in person to establish a quorum if the entity complies with the Open Meetings Act procedures established by section III of the supplemental emergency proclamation I issued on March 18, 2020.

B. Notwithstanding any provision of state law, any meeting or public hearing of an entity described in subsection A that is scheduled by law to occur during this state public health emergency may be postponed by the chair or other person responsible for setting it. The chair or other person shall provide notice of the postponement in a manner consistent with the provisions of section 36-25A-3 of the Open Meetings Act and shall reschedule the meeting or public hearing as soon as practicable.

Alabama Open Meetings Act and COVID-19

March 18, 2020
Subject: Open Meetings Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

To Whom It May Concern:

We truly hope you are all doing well in the unprecedented time of National isolation. 

One question we have been getting at the office concerns how a public body is supposed to both stay away from folks and still conduct business under the Public Meetings Act.

The governor released a Proclamation today that addresses just this concern.  Please find the relevant text below. Read the State of Alabama Proclamation by the Governor, March 13, 2020 (pdf).

Consult your attorney if you have any specific questions concerning how you need to conduct a modified meeting under these circumstances.

Remember, we are in this together.  The ARWA is here for you if you need us.  Please let us know if we can be of assistance to your group at this time.

Thank you all, and please stay safe.

++++++++++++++++ TEXT EXCERPT ++++++++++++++++

III. Open Meetings Act

I find that the government response to COVID-19 requires a careful balance between concerns for public health and safety (including the effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigation strategies), for the continued operations of governmental body, and for the right of the public to the open conduct of government. To that end:

  1. Notwithstanding any provision of the Open Meetings Act, members of a governmental body may participate in a meeting-and establish a quorum, deliberate, and take action -by means of telephone conference, video conference, or other similar communications equipment if:
    1. Any deliberation conducted, or action taken, during the meeting is limited to matters within the governmental body's statutory authority that is (a) necessary to respond to COVID-19 or (b) necessary to perform essential minimum functions of the governmental body; and
    2. The communications equipment allows all persons participating in the meeting to hear one another at the same time.
  2. Governmental bodies conducting a meeting pursuant to this section are encouraged, to the maximum extent possible, to use communications equipment that allows members of the public to listen to, observe, or participate in the meeting.
  3. No less than twelve hours following the conclusion of a meeting conducted pursuant to this section, a governmental body shall post a summary of the meeting in a prominent location on its website-or, if it has no website, in any other location or using any other method designed to provide reasonable notice to the public. The summary shall recount the deliberations conducted and the actions taken with reasonable specificity to allow the public to understand what happened.
  4. Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter, amend, or modify any other provision of the Open Meetings Act, including the notice requirements found in section 36-25A-3 and the enforcement, penalty, and remedy provisions found in section 36-25A-9. Any action or actions taken in violation of paragraph A will be deemed invalid.
  5. To the maximum extent possible, the terms used in this section shall have the same meaning as the terms defined in section 36-25A-2 of the Open Meetings Act.

++++++++++++++++ END TEXT EXCERPT ++++++++++++++++

Sincerely,

Rob White IV
ARWA Executive Director
 

 

State of Alabama Laws of Interest

The State of Alabama has many laws which may affect your utility's operation. Go to the section with a brief synopsis of relevant legislation select an item from the list below:

 

 

 

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