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The Era of Fully Remote Board Meetings Is Over: Returning to Pre-COVID Remote Attendance Requirements

Education K-12 Education

As we announced on our blog last week, Governor Pritzker’s COVID-19 disaster proclamation ended on May 11. This signals the end of optional remote attendance at meetings and a return to pre-COVID era requirements for remote participation under the Open Meetings Act (OMA). Thus, members of public bodies who are absent from a meeting may only participate remotely so long as they follow the requirements for remote attendance under Section 7 of the OMA (5 ILCS 120/7(a)-(c)) and subject to their public body’s policy.

As a refresher, the OMA requirements for remote attendance are as follows:

  • The public body member must be prevented from physically attending a meeting because of: (1) personal illness or disability; (2) employment purposes or the business of the public body; or (3) a family or other emergency.
  • If the public body member wishes to attend a meeting by video or phone, the member must provide advance notice to the secretary or clerk of the public body before the meeting unless advance notice is impractical.
  • A quorum of the public body must be physically present at the meeting, and a majority of the public body may allow a member to attend subject to the public body’s policy.

Public bodies should ensure that they follow these procedural requirements carefully. In a recent non-binding decision from the Public Access Counselor (PAC), the PAC is of the opinion that a public body must take some action at each meeting where an absent member wishes to participate, be it by formal vote or asking if any in-person members have objections. Public bodies should consider reviewing their current practices and policies to reflect this clarification by the PAC.

If you have any questions regarding remote attendance or any other OMA-related issues, please contact a Franczek attorney.