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Holding Board Meetings Electronically During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By on March 17, 2020 in Open Public Meetings Act with 0 Comments

Despite severe restrictions placed on public gatherings, school boards must meet during the coronavirus pandemic to address critical business, including convening a public hearing on the budget. The solution, holding a public meeting electronically, is supported by recent guidance from the Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”).

The Open Public Meetings Act (N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(b)) permits public meetings to be held in person or by means of communication equipment.  DLGS guidance provides that communications equipment includes streaming services and other online meeting platforms.

Notice of a meeting held by electronic equipment must be properly noticed.  Similarly, the board must provide a means of public comment.

A number of logistical issues arise when holding a meeting remotely.  One of these is finding an electronic platform that allows a board to preserve the integrity of the board’s discussion in the public portion while at some point permitting public comment to occur.   Platforms exist that can accommodate this need. There will be a cost attached and a need for careful implementation of the technology. 

Another issue that arises is maintaining confidentiality presuming there is a need for an executive session. This issue can be addressed by announcing the executive session at the public portion of the meeting and using a separate, non-public, dial-in mechanism for the executive portion of the meeting.

Streamlining a board meeting held electronically is likely the most important consideration.  Limit the agenda to the most critical issues and forego nonessential business.  Include an executive session on the agenda for a remotely held meeting only when absolutely necessary.

The good news is that the law and technology allow a board meeting to be held remotely so that critical business can be conducted.  Boards should examine their policies and consult with counsel when considering holding a meeting electronically.

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Robert Muccilli

About the Author

About the Author:

Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard’s School Law Group and a Shareholder in the Labor and Employment Group. For over 25 years, he has focused his practice in the areas of school law, and labor and employment. He has represented school districts with respect to a variety of education law issues involving students, teachers, school construction and special education issues including questions pertaining to inclusion, least restrictive environment, discipline, behavior management, transition, evaluation, discrete trial instruction, medically fragile students, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Aspergers Syndrome, and equal access to activities and services for disabled individuals. He has also been recognized as one of South Jersey’s Top Attorneys as published by SJ Magazine. Mr. Muccilli is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Washington, DC.

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