Best Practices for Holding Remote Board Meetings by Teleconference or Videoconference

by Lauren Kalisek

The following is a list of best practices for conducting open meetings by teleconference or videoconference under the March 16, 2020 action by Governor Abbott to suspend certain provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act. Information on technology issues can be found on the Texas Department of Information Resources website at: https://pubext.dir.texas.gov/portal/internal/resources/DocumentLibrary/Tips%20for%20Conducting%20Open%20Meetings%20Remotely.pdf

  1. A quorum must participate in any remotely held meeting, whether by teleconference or videoconference. The Presiding Officer may participate remotely.
  2. It is acceptable to post notice only online. Physical posting is not necessary, but consider posting if the County Clerk(s) arranged for posting and other local governments are physically posting.
  3. The notice must include details for joining the teleconference or videoconference to listen or view the meeting and for two-way communication. If videoconferencing is used, consider allowing others to join by call-in or to have call-in as a back-up if videoconferencing system is not working for one or more participants.
  4. Consider including notice language directing those wishing to make public comment to register via email prior to the start of the meeting (similar to the sign-in process during a regular, in-person meeting).
  5. Agenda packet material must be posted on the district’s website or otherwise made publicly available during the meeting (such as through a request by email prior to the meeting).
  6. A recording must be made of the meeting and made publicly available. This can be through posting on the district’s website or providing it via email on request.
  7. Per the Governor’s Order of March 31 (GA-14) and subject to local shelter-in-place orders, physical attendance of the meeting, if at all, should be limited to the minimum number of people needed to conduct the meeting (such as staff) to monitor the conference call technology if it cannot be done remotely. It is acceptable to advise in the notice that the meeting is only accessible remotely.
  8. Have the presiding officer or other assigned moderator give instructions at the beginning of the call asking call participants to:
  • Mute their phones unless they are speaking;
  • Announce their names each time they speak;
  • Avoid talking over one another;
  • Make sure they speak clearly into their speakers or handsets; and
  • Announce when they are leaving and when they are coming back to the meeting
9. Votes on action items should be clear about how each member is voting (either by roll call or by asking “for,” “against,” and “any abstentions”) so that each director’s position is clearly understood.
10. Use a separate call-in number for executive session not publicly posted, or a conference call option that allows for disconnection of the public line from the call before going into executive session.

Lauren Kalisek is the Managing Director and leads our Firm’s Districts Practice Group. Lauren focuses on providing counsel to cities, river authorities, water districts, and other local governmental organizations. If you would like additional information or have questions related to this article or other matters, please contact Lauren at 512.322.5847 or lkalisek@lglawfirm.com.

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