MONTPELIER — Secretary of State Jim Condos has issued new guidance regarding compliance with Vermont Open Meeting Law provisions, following the governor’s decision to let the state of emergency, declared in 2020 in response to COVID-19, lapse. The state of emergency will expire on June 15 at midnight, according to statements made by the governor. As a result of this decision, the temporary open meeting measures enacted by the Vermont Legislature tied to the declared emergency will no longer be in effect as of 12:01am on Wednesday, June 16.
“Vermont’s public servants have made it clear that our government can still operate and make critical decisions during a public health emergency without sacrificing the right of Vermonters to know how their government is making those decisions and their right to participate in the process,” said Condos. “As we transition towards our shared ‘new normal,’ it is vital that we use the many successes, best practices, and lessons learned from the last 15 months to improve how we, as trusted public officials, best serve the public.”
Public bodies must now comply with the long-standing OML as it appears in 1 V.S.A. §§ 310-314.
- A physical meeting location for public participation must be provided.
- Members of public bodies may still attend meetings remotely.
- Public bodies should review the OML’s advance notice requirements which requires physical posting of notices.
- Meeting minutes must be made available after five calendar days from the date of the meeting.
More detailed guidance can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.
“Throughout the pandemic the way we have had to conduct open meetings to keep our communities safe has shown that allowing for remote public access increases both participation and accountability,” said Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters. “Even though the law is reverting back we strongly encourage public bodies to continue use of these proven tools to better enable all members of the public, including those who have limitations that may preclude physical attendance, to have their voices heard in their local government. Supporting the right of all Vermonters to express their opinions on matters considered is something we all must strive for.”
The Secretary of State’s office would like to thank Vermont’s hard-working board members and municipal officials for everything they are doing to serve our Vermont communities, especially during the challenges presented over the last 15 months.
“If there is a silver lining to be found among the tragedies of 2020, it is that Vermonters have found innovative ways to communicate and participate in state and local democracy. We are hopeful these lessons learned translate into future best practices,” said Condos.