Open Meeting Law changes
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, Governor Baker issued an Emergency Order on March 12, 2020, allowing public bodies greater flexibility in utilizing technology in the conduct of meetings under the Open Meeting Law. The town of Shutesbury greatly values the participation of its citizens in the public meeting process, but given the current circumstances and recommendations at both the state and federal levels to limit or avoid public gatherings, including Governor Baker’s ban on gatherings of more than 25 people, together with the present closure of Shutesbury Town Hall and other public buildings to the public, the town has decided to implement the “remote participation” procedures allowed under Governor Baker’s emergency Order for all boards, committees, and commissions.
This means that:
1. Meetings may be held virtually and any member of a public body can opt to access a meeting virtually.
2. The public will not be allowed into a room where a Board/Committee is meeting, even where there are any members of the public body and/or town staff or official(s) physically present at the meeting location during the meeting.
3. However, the public will be provided with alternative means to watch, listen and interact with public bodies in real time.
4. If, despite our best efforts, our technological capabilities do not adequately support public access to virtual or remote meetings, the town will ensure that an audio or video recording, transcript, or other comprehensive record of the proceedings at the meeting is posted on the town’s website as soon as possible after the meeting. This system is currently being developed. If you want to view a recording of a recent Zoom meeting in the meantime, please email the Town Clerk.
5. Notices for public hearings will contain instructions for accessing virtual meetings.
6. For executive session meetings, public access to the meeting will be limited to the open session portion(s) of the meeting only. Public access to any audio, video, internet or web-based broadcast of the meeting will be discontinued when the public body enters executive session.
7. Where individuals have a right, or are required, to attend a public meeting or hearing, including executive session meetings, they will be provided with information about how to participate in the meeting/hearing remotely.
8. Meeting notices will still be posted at least 48 hours in advance (not counting Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays), unless it is an emergency meeting as defined under the Open Meeting Law (in which event, the meeting notice will be posted with as much advanced notice as is possible in the circumstances). Minutes will still be taken.