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OPEN MEETINGS LAW AMENDED TO PERMIT SOME REMOTE ATTENDANCE

The Open Meetings Law was recently amended to permit public bodies to use videoconferencing to conduct open meetings under “extraordinary circumstances” without there being a declared state disaster emergency in effect. Public bodies seeking to use remote attendance must adopt a local law or ordinance to do so. If they do not, they must continue to conduct all meetings in person as was done before the Covid-19 pandemic. The new law is found at Public Officers Law Section 103-a. This law will expire on July 1, 2024, unless extended.

To implement videoconferencing, the public body must adopt a local law or resolution after holding a public hearing. Among other things, a definition of “extraordinary circumstances” must be adopted which can include “disability, illness, caregiving responsibilities or other significant or unexpected factor.”

A member of a public body appearing remotely must do so from a location which is also open to the public. That location must be identified in the notice of meeting. A member participating from a location that is not public will not be counted towards a quorum.

The law contains a number of other details about technology, notices, and more.

  • Written procedures governing attendance by both the public and members of the public body must be adopted and posted on the official website of the public body
  • Members of the public body are still required to physically attend meetings unless there are “extraordinary circumstances” preventing such attendance
  • Members attending remotely must be heard, seen, and identified while the meeting is being conducted
  • Public notices of meetings must indicate that videoconferencing is to be used and include directions as to how the public can view or participate in the meeting
  • Technology used must permit access by persons with disabilities
  • Minutes of the meeting must identify those members participating remotely and must be made available to the public
  • Meetings with remote participation must be recorded and the recordings must be posted on the website within 5 business days and remain there for 5 years

Please contact us to learn more about videoconferencing for public meetings.

This is not intended to be legal advise.  You should contact your attorney to discuss your specific situation.

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William E. Podszus is an Associate at the firm and practices general litigation.
He can be reached at 845-764-9656 and by email.

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