Governor Baker Issues Executive Order Modifying Open Meeting Law Requirements

In light of the recent state of emergency and outbreak of COVID-19, Governor Charlie Baker issued an Executive Order on March 12, 2020 modifying the requirements of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, § 20.

At this time, public bodies are authorized to permit remote participation by all members in the public body, and public bodies are not required to have a quorum and the chair physically present at a specified meeting location.  A quorum may be achieved with members participating remotely.

Public bodies are not required to conduct meetings in a public place.  If a public body chooses not to conduct a meeting in a public place, it must provide adequate, alternative means of public access to its deliberations.  This includes, but is not limited to, meetings via telephone, internet, or satellite enabled audio or video conferencing or any other technology that enables the public to clearly follow the proceedings of the public body while they are occurring.  The public body may not charge for access to proceedings conducted through these alternative means.

If a public body faces economic hardship and cannot provide such alternative means despite best efforts, the public body may instead post on its municipal website a full and complete transcript, recording, or other comprehensive record of the proceedings as soon as practicable after the meeting concludes.  This exception does not apply to proceedings that require the allowance of active participation by members of the public pursuant to a general law, special law, regulation, local ordinance or by-law, such as a public hearing or Town Meeting.

The order remains in effect until it is rescinded or the state of emergency is terminated, whichever happens first.  Our office is closely monitoring for further developments related to COVID-19, and will provide further updates as available.

This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.