With the recent rise in COVID-19 case numbers, some governing boards that had been conducting in-person board meetings in 2021 may be considering returning to electronic meetings without in-person attendance by members of the public. During most of 2021, boards could freely move between in-person and electronic meetings without any formal process. However, with the enactment of AB 361 in September 2021, boards seeking to hold fully electronic/remote meetings must meet certain requirements in advance.
If a board has not held an electronic meeting within the last 30 days, it must make findings, by majority vote, in order to do so. Specifically, a board must find that meeting in person would present imminent risks to the health or safety of attendees. A written resolution is not required for these findings, but is recommended to document that the appropriate findings were made.
A board must make this determination before holding an electronic meeting since the meeting may not be called as an electronic meeting unless the appropriate findings have been made. The only exception is that a board may hold an electronic meeting solely for the purpose of making the required determination. For example, if a board met in person in December but would like to hold its first regular meeting in January electronically, the board would need to schedule an electronic special meeting prior to the regular meeting, and during that special meeting the sole item of business would be to make the required determination. The board may also make this determination at an in-person meeting allowing it to return to electronic meetings in the future. In either case, the subsequent regular meeting could then be held electronically.
Importantly, for boards located in a county in which local officials currently recommend social distancing, these initial findings are not required. Those boards may hold an electronic meeting without making the determination at a prior meeting.
Finally, for boards which have been meeting electronically, it is important that they remember to re-affirm the necessary findings at least every 30 days if they would like to continue to meet electronically. This requirement applies regardless of whether local officials currently recommend social distancing.
In addition to complying with these requirements, boards that meet electronically must also ensure their agendas and public comment process follow AB 361. For more information on those requirements please see our earlier update on AB 361.
For more information about electronic board meetings and other Brown Act requirements, you won’t want to miss DWK’s 2022 Brown Act Survival Training. This informative webinar will feature more information on the requirements of AB 361 and other updates to the Brown Act, deep dive sessions on a variety of topics, and a discussion dedicated to strategies for handling controversial topics at board meetings.