Fennville city commissioners met Monday using separated desks. Under new state rules, they can now meet by phone or online as long as the public can comment as well. (Photo courtesy Jim Hayden, www.bicyclebasefennville.wordpress.com)

Michigan allows public boards to meet electronically

LANSING—Public bodies, such as city councils and township boards, are allowed to conduct their meetings electronically through April 15.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-15 on Wednesday, March 18, to order a temporarily change to the Open Meetings Act to allow the change.

School boards are temporarily exempt from monthly meeting requirements.

“We are taking every measure we can to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and protect Michigan families, but recognize that public bodies still have an obligation to conduct business as usual,” Whitmer said. “During this crisis, we must ensure that public officials can do their job to meet the needs of residents, while also ensuring that meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public.”

Boards, commissions, committees, subcommittees, authorities, councils, and nonprofit boards can use telephone- or video-conferencing methods to continue meeting so long as they “ensure meaningful access and participation by members of the public body and the general public.”

Methods must fit the following criteria:

* Ensure two-way communication for members and the public to hear and address each other.

* Provide adequate notice to the public of the meeting.

* Post a public meeting notice on the municipality’s website.

* Permit participants to record or broadcast the public meeting.

* Allow participants to address the public body during a public comment period.

The latest information about the outbreak is available at www.Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

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