IFB staff participate in the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council (GRAC) to convey impacts of COVID-19 on our members in the areas of health care, rural development, technology and workforce advancement.
Relaxed Open Meetings Act Requirements for Local Units of Government
Due to public health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments are postponing non-essential meetings and implementing procedures for “hosting” those meeting considered essential. Opportunities to hold these essential meetings have been made possible under the gubernatorial disaster proclamation and Executive Order which, in part, relaxes meeting requirements under the Open Meetings Act (OMA).
The OMA is one of Illinois’ sunshine laws that ensures meetings, actions, and deliberations of public bodies, including local units of government, are conducted openly, accommodate public attendance, and allow for public comment.
The OMA also requires a quorum of the members of a public body be physically present at the meeting location.
To limit public gatherings and violations to the OMA the current Executive Order encourages local governments to postpone business when possible, including non-essential meetings.
When a until of local government determines it must hold a meeting, the Executive Order suspends the requirements for public, in-person attendance and the presents of a “physical quorum” by allowing for remote participation.
Under the Executive Order local governments must still find ways for these remote meeting to be accessible to the public and press. They must also provide opportunity for public comment.
These “virtual” meetings can employ a combination of video, audio and telephonic access. Local governments can also consider taking public comments by email or written submission. Those comments can then be read at the public meeting.
Where possible, local governments should also provide frequent updates on their website and consider outreach through social media.
Putting these measures in place creates opportunities for local governments to move forward during this challenging public health emergency while still maintaining a degree of transparency and public involvement.