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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

PAC Issues Advisory Opinion on Remote Meetings During Pandemic

As we have discussed a number of times, last month, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-07 suspending the physical quorum requirement for public bodies, meaning Illinois government bodies can meet remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Attorney General also issued guidance on remote meetings, which we also reported about previously

Recently, the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor (PAC) issued a non-binding opinion in response to a challenge to the legality of a meeting of a public body where all but one member participated electronically. 2020 PAC 62246. The meeting involved the Chicago Exective Airport Board, which held a scheduled meeting with the chairman physically present and the six directors participating via teleconference. The complainant filed a "request for review" with the PAC office aleging that the meeting violated the OMA because the public body did not have a physical quorum present. 

The PAC acknowledged that under normal circumstances, a physical quorum would be required under section 7(a) of the OMA. However, the Governor had declared Illinois a disaster area in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to protect the public's health during the pandemic, had issued EO 2020-07 expressly suspending the physical quorum requirement for meetings of public bodies in Illinois. The PAC noted that the EO was in effect at the time of the March 18th meeting that was the subject of the complaint, and the EO "permitted the Board to have less than a quorum of members physically present" at this meeting "and allowed its members to participate remotely without the limitations described in section 7 of OMA." As a result, the PAC found no violation of the OMA.

Thank you to one of our readers who shared this non-binding opinion with us. As we've reported in the past, much of the helpful guidance we get from the PAC office comes through these non-binding opinions and we appreciate our readers who forward them to us!


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