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Revised: July 19, 2021

The Municipal Assistance Center created this toolkit for hybrid (combined in-person and remote) public meetings. The Open Meeting Law does not permit remote-only meetings (as there must be a physical location, hence the term “hybrid” meetings), but it does authorize municipal local bodies to meet by electronic or other means, so long as certain conditions are met. Note that the Open Meeting Law does not give the public the right to require remote access; instead, this is an additional option the public body can choose to provide. In other words, attendance and participation in a hybrid meeting via remote access can be offered by the public body as a supplemental method of attending meetings.

The model notice and agenda can be used in conjunction with the informational handout provided below. While the informational handout is not required by law, we recommend it as a helpful resource for members of the public to understand how hybrid meetings will work. The toolkit provides guidance to public bodies to hold optional in-person and remote meetings – i.e. “hybrid” meetings – while adhering to the Open Meeting Law. Two common questions include:

  • Do we have to hold hybrid meetings?
    • No, each public body may decide whether to hold in-person only or hybrid meetings (unless the legislative body directs public bodies that it has authority over otherwise). Whether—and to what extent— a public body holds hybrid meetings should be based on your public’s needs and your town’s technical capabilities. At minimum, public bodies must adhere to the Open Meeting Law’s basic meeting requirements. To learn more about these requirements, please see our Open Meeting Law FAQs and Quick Guide at https://www.vlct.org/municipal-assistance/municipal-topics/vermonts-open-meeting-law.
  • What happens if the public attending remotely is disconnected or unable to participate due to some technical or other issue?
    • Public bodies holding a hybrid meeting should plan and strive to allow any member of the public attending remotely to have full accessibility to its meeting. This includes having a member of the public body or staff person designated to troubleshoot any technical issues. It could also mean, if the public body so decides, that it continues its meeting to a later date and time certain until any disconnected remote public participants are able to reconnect, though this is technically not required.
    • Note, however, that even though the Open Meeting Law doesn’t require that the public be guaranteed a method to remotely connect and participate in its meetings, the public will expect to have full access via remote means if a hybrid meeting is noticed. Therefore, if remote public access is provided, public bodies should attempt to provide remote attendees with the same type of access to their meetings that all in-person attendees are entitled to under the law.

If you have additional questions, please review our Open Meeting Law resources or contact the Municipal Assistance Center Inquiry Service at 1-800-649-7915 or info@vlct.org.

 

Publication Date: 
Monday, August 02, 2021

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