In response to the many questions asked at the Board Chat on 3.23.20, we have developed the following to clarify questions. Please seek the following resource below, your school’s attorney or Jim Martin at 612-581-8450 jmartinlawfirm@gmail.com

Minnesota Department of Administration

Data Practices office

651-296-6733 or info.dpo@state.mn.us.

 This was prepared by Martin Law, PLLC and is not intended, nor should it be used, as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinion since legal counsel may only be given in response to inquiries regarding particular factual situations.

Q&A Open Meeting Law Board Chat 3.23.20

Can our board use Zoom? Yes, you can use Zoom or other online meeting options.  In addition to providing a link on your agenda, you can add a link to your website to provide public access.

Similar online resources for use for virtual board meetings:

·       Zoom:  https://zoom.us/education

·       Go To Meeting:  https://www.gotomeeting.com

·       Join Me:  https://www.join.me

How does the public participate? Along with your agenda, you can add a link to your website to allow access for additional attendees. Use your mute button for guests as they can only participate during open comment. Prior to the meeting, ensure you understand how to monitor and make the public comment process work.
Can the meeting be through just regular phone or do we have to see board members? Members of the public present at the regular meeting location or online should be able to hear all discussion and testimony. There is not a requirement during this crisis to be able to see attendees.
Are we able to pass a resolution? All votes must be conducted by roll call, so each member’s vote on each issue can be identified and recorded.
How do we provide access to potential attendees? Along with posting the link on your agenda, schools can add a link to your website to allow access for additional attendees. The following article has a few suggestions to avoid unwelcome visitors or Zoom bombing.  Take precautionary measures to avoid security breaches.
How does Open Comment work? As in a regular board meeting, you could request that attendees submit questions to the Board Chair in advance. Schools can provide a defined Open Comment period limiting each attendee to 3-5 minutes. The Board Chair can control and monitor the public input with suggested parameters.
If Minnesota is not mandated to “Stay at Home”, does someone have to be at the regular or cited meeting place?

 

Many charters still have some personnel on the premises to conduct essential services. The law could be interpreted to mean that since schools are open, albeit through distance learning, and that some essential employees are still on the premises at least one representative of the board (could be the board’s legal counsel, chief administrative officer (for example, executive director) or a board member) should be on premises to follow that part of the law.

However, the law can also be interpreted that the Governor’s executive order has directed everyone who can to work from home, should, and in the state of emergency under such an order, one board representative does NOT need to be on the school premises for the meeting, especially since the state is discouraging the gathering of the public in a public space. Make certain that your notice (see above) states that there will NOT be a member present at the school and cite the Governor’s executive order as the reason.

How do we provide a board packet? Schools can post the board packet on its website and could make it visible on screen for a Zoom meeting.
Does regular meeting notice apply? If your board is declaring a move to the online format, there should be notice posted at least 3 days before the meeting.
Do we need to record board meetings? Recording meetings is not required unless the board deliberates in a session that is closed pursuant to the Open Meeting Law. A closed meeting, except one closed under the attorney-client privilege, must be electronically recorded. Unless otherwise provided by law, the recordings must be preserved for at least three years after the date of the meeting. (*Note – under 13D.05 subdivision 3 property session recording should be preserved for 8 years.)

Public Comment: Sample request to speak card

This card should be completed and submitted to the Secretary of the Board prior to the opening of the meeting.

While we, the Board of (Name of School) encourage public participation and provide a designated time of 15 minutes for open comment, individual presentations are limited to three (3) minutes. Board members may ask questions but no formal action/vote will be taken because the issue has not identified on agenda. However, the Board may give direction to staff following a presentation or calendar the issue for future discussion. Individuals may also request that a topic related to school business be placed on a future agenda and once such an item is properly placed on the agenda and publicly noticed, the Board can discuss, respond, and possibly act upon such an item. Public participation is limited and places are allotted on a first come, first served basis. The public must abide by [insert name] charter school norms concerning professionalism and civility in their comments, which can be found in our handbook.

I wish to speak to the board on a matter that is not on the Board’s agenda.

Name of Speaker

Speaker’s Address:

Sample telephone meeting declaration

Sample language to be posted on school letterhead:

 

DECLARATION OF THE (BOARD CHAIR, CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL, OR CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER) OF THE

(NAME OF SCHOOL) PURSUANT TO MINN. STAT. 13D.021

(DATE OF DECLARATION)

 

WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that a global pandemic exists due to the COVID-19 virus; and

WHEREAS, on Friday March 13, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency pursuant to Minn. Stat. 12.31, Subd. 2; and

WHEREAS, the Board of the (NAME OF SCHOOL) is scheduled to hold a regular meeting on (DAY/DATE OF MEETING); and

WHEREAS, a provision of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law, Minn. Stat. 13D.021, allows a Board meeting to be conducted by telephone or other electronic means if the “presiding officer, chief legal counsel, or chief administrative officer” of the Board “determines that an in-person meeting or a meeting conducted under section 13D.02 is not practical or prudent because of a health pandemic or an emergency declared under [Minn. Stat.] chapter 12.

NOW THEREFORE, as the (Board Chair of the Board, Chief Legal Counsel, or Chief Administrative Officer) of the (Name of the School), I have determined that in light of the pandemic declared by the World Health Organization and the peacetime emergency declared by Governor Walz pursuant to Minn. Stat. 12.31, Subd. 2, that conducting an in-person meeting of the Board of the (NAME OF THE SCHOOL) on (DAY/DATE) is neither practical nor prudent.

As a result, the meeting of the Board of the (NAME OF THE SCHOOL) scheduled for Monday, March 16, 2020, will be conducted by “telephone or other electronic means” as governed by Minn. Stat. 13D.021 as follows:

  1. The meeting will be held beginning at (STARTING TIME OF MEETING).
  2. At least one board member, the Board’s chief legal counsel or the chief administrative officer will be in attendance in the Board Room at the offices of the (NAME OF SCHOOL).
  3. All votes of the members of the Board will be conducted by roll call.
  4. Members of the public who wish to attend the meeting in the Board Room will be able to hear all discussion and testimony and all votes of the members of the Board.
  5. Members of the public who wish to monitor the meeting electronically from a remote location will be allowed to do so as directed in the Notice posted at the (NAME OF SCHOOL’S) Main Office and on the website of the (NAME OF SCHOOL).
  6. The administration of the (NAME OF SCHOOL) is directed to post a public notice that the (DATE OF MEETING) Board meeting will be conducted by telephone or other electronic means and the process by which members of the public may monitor meeting electronically if not attending the meeting at the Board Room. Such notice must be posted as soon as possible.

By:            _________________________                      Dated:

(NAME)

(TITLE)

 

Consult with your legal counsel in addition to reviewing the following resources: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/openmtg.pdf and https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/13D.05

Also, be mindful of Minnesota State Charter School law at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/124E