Elected officials may participate remotely at public meetings, but please keep the following requirements in mind or else actions taken at a meeting with an electronically participating member could be later challenged:
- The local government must have an adopted policy (ordinance or rule) that specifically allows for remote participation of its members. The simplest way would be to incorporate 5 ILCS 120/7 into the policy, but additional requirements can also be made.
- A physical quorum is still necessary, so a typical seven-member board (six trustees and the village president) would need at least four members physically present, regardless of remote participants. Best practice would be to entertain a motion to allow a remote participant after roll call has established quorum. A remote participant may only vote on issues after the quorum has voted to allow the remote participation.
- The reason for the remote participant’s absence must be: “(i) personal illness or disability; (ii) employment purposes or the business of the public body; or (iii) a family or other emergency.” Note: Vacation is not a proper reason.
- Advance notice to the recording secretary or clerk is required unless it is impractical to provide advance notice.
- Certain units of government have slightly different authority to adopt a policy, but municipalities, park districts, school districts, and county boards fall under the above-stated requirements of 5 ILCS 120/7. Review subsection (d) for more details.
- Remote participation can be through video or audio conference. However, the rules of physical quorum apply throughout the meeting. If, for example, a member necessary for physical quorum exits the meeting to take a break or make a phone call, the remote participant cannot prevent the lack of physical quorum. A roll call vote taken without a physical quorum would be invalid.
Author: Brad Stewart