As a follow up to our post this afternoon about concerns about compliance with the OMA during the Covid-19 crisis, we can now report on a new Executive Order (issued just this afternoon) that temporarily relaxes the in-person requirements for meetings of public bodies. 
As you know, the Open Meetings Act requires members of a public body to be physically present at the location of an open meeting, and only allows remote participation by video or audio conference in limited circumstances, such as personal illness, work, or a family emergency. 
In order to promote the social distancing required in response to the COVID-19, Governor Pritzker signed Executive Order No. 2020-07 on March 16, 2020, relieving local governments and public bodies of Open Meeting Act requirements relating to in-person attendance at public meetings. Section 6 of the order specifically allows public bodies to conduct meetings electronically without having to comply with the physical quorum requirement or the conditions for participating electronically in a meeting. Public bodies are encouraged to provide video, audio, and/or telephonic access to meetings to ensure members of the public can monitor the meeting and to update their websites and social media to keep the public apprised of change to their meetings. 

Section 6. During the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation, the provisions of the Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120, requiring or relating to in-person attendance by members of a public body are suspended. Specifically, (1) the requirement in 5 ILCS 120/2.01 that ‘members of a public body must be physically present’ is suspended; and (2) the conditions in 5 ILCS 120/7 limiting when remote participation is permitted are suspended. Public bodies are encouraged to postpone consideration of public business where possible. When a meeting is necessary, public bodies are encouraged 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 order does not relieve local governments of the requirements that
     the member seeking remote attendance must notify the recording secretary or clerk of the public body before the meeting, unless impractical;
       remote attendance by a member must be allowed by a majority of the public body; and
       remote attendance must be in accordance with and to the extent allowed by rules adopted by the public body.
The new EO also includes a number of new restrictions, including the following:

  • The order requires all restaurants and bars to suspend on-premises consumption (delivery and pick-up is still allowed). Restaurants in airports, hospitals, dining halls are exempt and hotel restaurants can still provide room service and carry-out.
  • The order also prohibits any gathering, public or private, of 50 or more people. This includes fitness centers, bowling alleys, and theaters. Grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, and shelters are exempt.
  • The order also suspends the one-week waiting period for unemployment claims.
Post Authored by Dan Bolin & Julie Tappendorf