Need some assistance running an open meeting while “social distancing”?
The Office of Open Government in the Wisconsin Department of Justice issued two advisories in
March 2020 indicating that governmental bodies may meet remotely during the COVID-19
public health emergency and still comply with the open meetings law. The March 16 advisory
states that “governmental bodies typically can meet their open meetings obligations, while
practicing social distancing to help protect public health, by conducting meetings via telephone
conference calls if the public is provided with an effective way to monitor such calls (such as
public distribution, at least 24 hours in advance, of dial-in information for a conference call).”
The March 20 advisory further explains that meeting “notices should provide instructions for
how the public may access the remote meeting, whether it is to be held via telephone conference
call or video conference call. This includes providing the telephone number, video conference
link, and any necessary passcodes or other login information.”
In 2019, the Wisconsin Legislature changed Wis. Stat. § 19.84 to codify the posting requirements. The new posting requirements are in Wis. Stat. § 19.84(1)(b)1,2,3 as noted below(italicized text):
- Posting a notice in at least 3 public places likely to give notice to persons affected.
- Posting a notice in at least one public place likely to give notice to persons affected and placing a notice electronically on the governmental body’s Internet site.
- By paid publication in a news medium likely to give notice to persons affected.