By: Brian R. Bare
On April 24, 2020, Whitt Law posted “Planning for the Future Series: Open Meetings During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” wherein we discussed Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-07, specifically as it relates to Section 2.01 and Section 7 of the Open Meetings Act (the “Act”). Subsequently, on June 15, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed into law Public Act 101-0640 (formerly Senate Bill 2135), amending Sections 2.01 and 7 of the Act and codifying the provisions of the prior Executive Order. That Public Act added subsection (e) to Section 7 to authorize public bodies to hold open and closed meetings by audio or video conference without the physical presence of a quorum, so long as certain conditions were met. Those requirements were addressed in “Planning for the Future Series: Illinois Amends the Open Meetings Act.”
As of the date of this posting, many Illinois counties are subject to increased COVID-19 mitigation measures from the State of Illinois, including a limit on the number of in-person attendees at meetings. Some counties are at a 10-person limit; other counties are at a limit of 25 people or 25% of the room’s capacity – whichever is smaller. For counties with the 25-person/25% limit, it would theoretically be possible to have in-person attendance from the full board of education, school administrators, and numerous members of the public without exceeding the limit and without turning any interested member of the public away.
However, in the Governor’s disaster proclamation dated November 13, 2020, he specifically lowered the limit for in-person attendance at all public meetings under the Open Meetings Act. For all Illinois counties, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed to attend in-person at meetings conducted under the Open Meetings Act, regardless of their region’s mitigation status. This will remain in effect for the next thirty days, i.e. until December 13, 2020, or until lifted by the Governor. Alternatively, it may be extended in December’s disaster proclamation for another thirty days after that.
Local boards of education may still meet in-person with school administrators also present, so long as they do not exceed a maximum of 10 people. Methods of public attendance and participation must be made available electronically in accordance with the revision to the Open Meetings Act, just as local school districts have been doing already this year. Note that advance notice of these options must be given to the public, including the manner for submitting public comment. For all electronic meetings, all votes must be in the roll call format and open sessions must be recorded in the same manner as the closed sessions.
The attorneys at Whitt Law LLC are well-versed in the myriad of issues surrounding the Open Meetings Act, the “Restore Illinois” Plan, and State of Illinois actions in response to COVID-19. Please contact Senior Attorney Brian R. Bare if you have questions regarding this article.
This blog/website and the Planning for the Future Series are made available for educational purposes only. They are not intended to provide specific legal advice to your individual circumstances or legal questions. You acknowledge that your reading of this blog site does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and the blog/website host or the law firm, or any of the attorneys with whom the host is affiliated. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this website without seeking professional counsel.