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April 15 2020

Extension of Special Open Meetings Act Rules

By: Bradley A. Fowler

Late yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2020-48 (the “Order”) clarifying and extending the relief from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”), MCL 15.261 et seq., previously provided by Executive Order 2020-15 back on March 18, 2020.

Executive Order 2020-15 was set to expire on April 15, 2020.  This new Order extends the temporary suspension of rules and procedures relating to physical presence at meetings and hearings of public bodies and other governmental entities in Michigan through May 12, 2020.  Meetings of public bodies under OMA may continue to be held electronically, including by telephonic conferencing or video conferencing, provided they are held in a manner in which both the general public and the members of the public body can participate and subject to the rules and regulations detailed in the Order. 

Like in the previous order, a public body is not required to meet via electronic means.  In-person meetings of the members may still be conducted, but this Order and other Orders encourage meeting via electronic means whenever possible.  If a public body elects to conduct a meeting via electronic means, then a notice with certain information must be posted and other precautions taken to ensure public participation at the meeting, as specified by the Order.

An important point that the Order does not address is whether, in light of the Governor’s Stay Home Stay Safe Order prohibiting the public from physically attending in person meetings, public bodies are required to make arrangements for public participation by electronic means even if the members of the public body will be physically present at a central location otherwise open to the public.  In view of this omission, we consider it advisable for public bodies to make a good faith effort to conduct all meetings during the time that the Governor’s Stay Home Order remains in effect (currently through April 30, 2020) in a way that the public can observe the meeting remotely and interact with the members of the public body during the OMA-required public comment period by electronic means.  To comply with the Order, public bodies should also provide a way for individuals to contact members of the public body electronically in advance of a meeting to offer input or ask questions about any matter that will come before the public body at the meeting.  

The attorneys at Mika Meyers have considered the ramifications of this latest executive order and are prepared to answer questions from our clients on attendance at meetings of public bodies, adjourning or rescheduling meetings or hearings, the use of technology to conduct meetings that comport with the Open Meetings Act and the Order and a host of other issues.  Please contact us if you have any questions on how the Governor’s Order may affect your municipality or public body.