Whitmer Suspends Open Meetings Act, How Will The People’s Voices Be Heard?
On Wednesday, March 18th Gretchen Whitmer issued another executive order which will temporarily change Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. That act requires:
certain meetings of certain public bodies to be open to the public; to require notice and the keeping of minutes of meetings; to provide for enforcement; to provide for invalidation of governmental decisions under certain circumstances; to provide penalties; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts
This act pertains to all levels of government in Michigan including Boards, commissions, committees, subcommittees, authorities, councils and nonprofit boards too mention a few.
We are taking every measure we can to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and protect Michigan families, but recognize that public bodies still have an obligation to conduct business as usual...During this crisis, we must ensure that public officials can do their job to meet the needs of residents, while also ensuring that meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public.
The Governor’s statement went on to say:
The order also temporarily authorizes public bodies, departments, and agencies to use technology to enable remote participation in public comment and hearings, and temporarily excuses school boards from monthly meeting requirements
Many people are very concerned about this executive order and I agree you should be but under these circumstances as long as they are temporary it is something that is needed. I believe the electronic measures they will put in place with suffice for now.
What are those electronic measures, well in order to meet electronically, government bodies must:
- Ensure two-way communication for members and the public to hear and address each other.
- Provide adequate notice to the public of the meeting.
- Post a public meeting notice on their website.
- Permit participants to record or broadcast the public meeting.
- Allow participants to address the public body during a public comment period.
Remember the Governor’s state of emergency which she declared on March 10 ends on April 6th at that point the Governor must go to the legislature to extend her executive orders (EO's). They would hopefully re-evaluate those EO’s and determine if they are still needed.