On March 13, 2020, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Directive No. 2020-2 (the “Directive”). In part, the Directive provided:
- All public bodies of departments and agencies of the State, including but not limited to boards, commissions, committees, subcommittees, authorities, and councils, must, to the extent practicable, consider postponing public meetings and/or agenda items that may be deferred until a later time.
- All public bodies of departments and agencies of the State subject to the OMA [Open Meetings Act] that must continue to meet must do so by means sufficient to enable meaningful access and communication for all participants. Participation by remote access technology, including conference calling, real-time streaming, or other platforms is acceptable, and sufficient to form a quorum, so long as public access and participation is preserved.
- Public notice of the time and date of each meeting of a public body of a department or agency of the State subject to the OMA must be given in the manner required by the OMA, which includes publication of the notice on the public body’s internet website. The public notice must include sufficient information such that the public’s right to address a meeting of the public body is preserved.
It is our opinion that the above Directive excludes municipalities as they do not fall under the technical definition of “departments and agencies of the State” as used here; however, the restrictions can be viewed as guidelines for municipal practice.
- Rules of procedure should be amended accordingly prior to any change in practice.
- Video conference, as opposed to teleconference, is preferred.
- Every effort should be made to ensure the public is notified of the changes well in advance.
- An access point needs to be made available in a public place (for example a video conference terminal in the traditional meeting chamber). The public must be able to at least hear everything that is being said and be allowed to comment at the proper time or times.
- Non-essential matters might be adjourned until they can be addressed in a traditional in-person forum.
- Prior to cancelling any meeting, the municipality should ensure that there are no statutory or charter requirements to hold meetings at certain times or intervals. Should a meeting be required, in most cases, it can simply be brought to order and then adjourned.