The Order relieves public bodies (including Boards and Commissions in Framingham) of the obligation to comply with Section 20 of the Open Meeting Law requiring that all boards and commissions conduct their meetings in a public place that is open and physically accessible to the public, provided that the public body makes provision to ensure public access to the deliberations of the public body for interested members of the public “through adequate, alternative means.”
Key provisions of the Order provide that:
- “Adequate, alternative means of public access” is defined as measures that provide transparency and permit timely and effective public access to the deliberations of the public body. Such means include but are not limited to providing public access through telephone,
internet or satellite enabled audio or video conferencing or any other technology that enables the public to clearly follow the public meeting.
- A municipal public body that for reasons of economic hardship and despite best efforts is unable to provide alternative means of public access that allow the public to follow the public meeting as they are occurring in real time may instead post on its municipal website a
full and complete transcript or recording as soon as practicable after the conclusion of the meeting. Framingham expects not to utilize this provision but is exploring whether video or audio links of all meetings held pursuant to the Order can be posted to the City website as
soon as practicable after the conclusion of the meeting in the interests of furthering maximum transparency.
- The Order suspends the Open Meeting Law requirement that a quorum of the body and the chair by physically present at the public meeting location and authorizes remote participation by all members in any meeting of the public body, including the Chair.
- The Order requires that when active, real-time participation by members of the public is a specific requirement of the applicable law, regulation or Framingham’s Bylaw applicable to the meeting or agenda item, then the alternative means of access provided by the City must allow for such real-time participation.
The City Solicitor advises that so long as all elected and appointed bodies members, applicants and members of the public have the same access to call in, listen and speak (when recognized by the Chair) at a meeting held pursuant to a group conference call number, or to participate similarly via a videoconferencing medium such as videoconferencing, such technology means will satisfy the requirements of the Order.
If Boards and Commission exercise the option to hold a meeting completely remotely with all board members participating remotely as permitted by the Order, all votes by the Board and Commissions must be made by roll call vote to satisfy the requirements of the Remote Participation rule. The roll call vote must be referenced in the minutes created by the Board
and also ensures that the votes of each board member is recorded accurately.
The Order provides that except for the emergency exceptions to Section 20 outlined above, all other provisions of the Open Meeting Law remain in full force and effect, including the 48-hour advance posting requirement and the taking and preparation of minutes.
Framingham has created an email address to allow people to make public comment for meetings. The City encourages the public to send emails for public comment to email@example.com.
In the subject line of the email, denote the name of the meeting that should receive the comment. Please send your comment at least two hours before the posted start time of the meeting.
The City will continue to monitor the situation and provide regular updates.