A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Regulations Impose Vast Obligations on Public Bodies Conducting Remote Meetings

On September 24, 2020, the Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”) issued Local Finance Notice 2020-21 to further explain the new emergency regulations for remote public meetings held during a declared emergency.  The emergency regulations were promulgated by the Director of DLGS in accordance with Section 8 of newly enacted L. 2020, c. 34, and are codified as N.J.A.C. 5:39-1.1. through 1.7.  The emergency regulations aim to ensure continuity of government operations and transparency in conducting public business when an emergency requires a governing body, subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, to hold meetings remotely.  Boards of education are included in these emergency regulations and are subject to their requirements.

The emergency regulations are presently in effect and have been concurrently proposed for permanent adoption in the October 19, 2020 New Jersey Register.  Public comments may be submitted on the regulations until November 18, 2020.

The new regulations impose various new obligations on governing bodies that hold fully remote and/or hybrid (in-person and remote) meetings during a declared emergency.  These obligations include but are not limited to:

  • No cost public access;
  • Platform selected to facilitate the remote meeting must have the capacity for the normal public turnout at similar meetings.  That capacity must accommodate at least 50 individuals in addition to officials participating in the meeting;
  • Platform utilized can be audio-only, audio plus video, or livestream;
  • Telephone conference line for allowing members of the public with limited or no internet access to listen and provide public comment;
  • Public comment submission in writing in advance of the meeting within a reasonable amount of time before the meeting;
  • Any presentations or documents that could be viewed or made available to members of the public during an in-person meeting must be made visible on a video broadcast of the remote public meeting or made available on the website of the local public body; and
  • Local public body holding the meeting must adopt, by resolution, standard procedures, and requirements for public comments.

In addition to the above, the regulations also account for proper notice of a remote public meeting and guidance on how local public bodies should revise their annual notices to incorporate remote public meetings.

As the new requirements differ greatly from those issued from DLGS in March 2020, it is imperative that boards of education review their current practices for conducting fully remote and/or hybrid (in-person and remote) meetings during the declared COVID-19 emergency.

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Lauren E. Tedesco-Dallas

About the Author

About the Author:

Lauren E. Tedesco-Dallas, Esq. is a shareholder with the firm and concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, OPMA, and teaching staff tenure matters under TEACHNJ and ACHIEVENJ.

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