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COVID-19 - Conducting Remote Meetings and Agenda Titles

Aleshire & Wynder, LLP, has been providing a series of updates to assist you with the COVID-19 emergency and the rapidly changing legal landscape.  This latest update addresses i) methods for conducting remote meetings with sample notice language to use in conjunction with the Agenda; and ii) sample Agenda titles to address COVID-19 related issues.  Please contact us if you have any questions.

Conducting Remote Meetings

Per the Governor’s most recent Executive Order, N-29-20, Brown Act meetings can now be conducted entirely remotely.  See https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/3.17.20-N-29-20-EO.pdf

  • The requirement to have at least one member of the body present at the meeting location has been suspended, as has the requirement to post notices to indicate where the members will be calling from, and to allow public access to the remote locations. 
  • The public body does not need to make available a physical location from which the public can view the meeting and provide comment.  The prior requirement to provide a physical space only doesn’t apply if you allow for e-comments, etc.  
  • Accessibility and notice requirements still apply.  The means by which reasonable accommodations can be requested, and notice of how to view the meeting and how to provide public comment, must also be provided.  Noticing time lines for meetings have not been suspended.

Remote meetings can be conducted using applications such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. Your IT department should be able to assist in setting this up. If not, please contact our office and we can put you in touch with IT professionals at some of our other client cities who have already set up such meetings and have volunteered to answer questions or provide guidance when possible.  If you already have a system in place and your IT department may also be able to informally help out other public agencies if needed, please let us know. 

As noted above, if you are conducting remote meetings, you must provide the public notice on how to access the meeting remotely.  Here is a short example from March 17, 2020 Suisun City Council meeting, which was prior to the latest order from the Governor when public access was still required at the time the Agenda was issued:

DUE TO CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 RESIDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED
TO ATTEND THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING VIA THE APPLICATION, ZOOM.
ZOOM MEETING INFORMATION:
MEETING ID: 744 576 1347
CALL IN PHONE NUMBER: (707) 438-1720
 
TO VIEW TONIGHT’S MEETING ON SUISUN WEBSITE, LIVESTREAM
 
REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT IS AVAILABLE FOR THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING
BY EMAILING CLERK@SUISUN.COM (PRIOR TO 6pm) OR
VIA WEBSITE OR PHONE APPLICATION, ZOOM
 

Suisun City also posted instructions on their website, along with a helpful Zoom instruction guide complete with diagrams.  (See https://www.suisun.com/government/city-council/city-council/.)  Please note that you should update any sample language to address the specific process utilized by your agency.  Additionally, the “public comment” portion of your agenda should be reviewed to confirm it contains language for remote-access comments, rather than in-person comments, if in-person meetings are no longer being held.  Finally, we suggest doing a test run prior to implementing your system.

Agenda Titles (COVID-19)

In addition to the attached samples explaining the telephonic public comment and meeting process on the Agenda, here are some sample Agenda titles related to COVID-19.  Please let us know if you need resolutions or other materials for these items.

  • Closed session:  This is in context of discussion the threat the pandemic poses your ability to provide public services or facilities:

A. Threats to Public Services or Facilities (Pursuant to Government Code section 54957(a).)  Consultation with: City Attorney and/or City Emergency or Critical Function Personnel.  [Name specific titles if possible, such as “including Chief of Police, Fire Chief” etc.]

  • Open session:  This is a “catch all” for general discussion and action to mitigate impacts of COVID-19, and can serve as an opportunity to update the public, etc.  If you have specific action in mind (such as an award of a contract to perform COVID-19 related services), then the specific item should be placed on the Agenda as a separate action.

A.  Discussion and Action on Measures to Mitigate the Impacts of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic.

  • Declaring an Emergency (Open Session):  Assuming your jurisdiction is a city or county you need to proclaim a local emergency, there are two different options: i) the legislative body proclaims a local emergency itself; or ii) the legislative body ratifies a previously proclamation of emergency (usually from the City Manager as may be authorized) within seven days from when the original proclamation was made.  Samples are below; contact the City Attorney’s Office if you have questions regarding the specifics

City Council Proclaiming an Emergency: 

Resolution Of The City Council Of The City Of ________ Proclaiming The Existence Of A Local Emergency Within The City Of _______ (COVID-19)

City Council Ratifying the Prior Proclamation of an Emergency: 

Resolution Of The City Council Of The City Of ________ Confirming The ______________ [Insert appropriate title, such as “Emergency Coordinator”]’s Proclamation Of The Existence Of A Local Emergency Within The City Of _________ (COVID-19)

Conclusion

Aleshire & Wynder is committed to supporting you during this very fluid situation.  Please contact us if you have any questions.