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OMA Considerations, Limits Come with Latest Disaster Proclamation

  • Date Posted
    November 17, 2020
  • Category
    COVID-19

UPDATE:
The information below was posted prior to the Governor’s announcement that Tier 3 mitigations will go into effect statewide on November 20. More details on the impact will be posted here.

Latest disaster proclamation reinstates 10-person meeting limit at regular meeting location for virtual board meetings.

On November 13, in the midst of a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the state, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued a new 30-day disaster proclamation, which provides that for the purposes of meetings held without the physical presence of a quorum under the Open Meetings Act, it is not feasible for more than 10 people to attend at the regular meeting location.
With the new proclamation and other tiered mitigations going into effect throughout different regions, many boards of education in Illinois will likely revert to virtual board meetings or make adjustments, such as providing overflow meeting rooms, to ensure the proper attendee limit is enforced for meetings held in-person.

OMA was amended in June to permit public bodies, including school boards, to hold meetings virtually when a physical quorum is not practical or prudent due to a public health disaster declared by the Governor or Illinois Department of Public Health director. Boards must satisfy a number of procedural requirements to utilize this flexibility under OMA.  Executive Order (EO) 2020-71, also issued November 13, extends prior EOs allowing for suspension of the in-person quorum requirement in OMA through December 12.

Prior EO 2020-44 states that public bodies: “are encouraged to ensure that at least one member is physically present at the location of the meeting if others are attending telephonically or electronically. Public bodies must take steps to provide video, audio, and/or telephonic access to meetings to ensure members of the public may monitor the meeting, and to update their websites and social media feeds to keep the public fully apprised of any modifications to their meeting schedules or the format of their meetings due to COVID-19, as well their activities relating to COVID-19.”

The state Attorney General’s Guidance to Public Bodies on the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act during the COVID-19 Pandemic includes items relevant to these recommendations.

Boards that are continuing to hold in-person meetings with a quorum physically present must still abide by any other EOs that impose limits on meeting sizes within their respective regions. For example, in regions with Tier 1 mitigations in place, meetings are limited to the lesser of 25 people or 25% of overall room capacity. School boards should consult their board attorneys for advice on specific compliance questions.