Public meetings conducted by video teleconference do not require significant expense for most cities. KRS 61.826 contains the requirements that public agencies must follow to conduct meetings by video teleconference. In most cases, cities can make modest technology investments to meet the statutory standards, though internet access is necessary for members to video teleconference remotely.
If internet access is available, a city can simply project the video teleconferenced members through a mid-size television to allow the public to see and hear the members at all times. Members of the public must also have access to the meeting through a broadcast on a television channel or livestream through the internet. Some cities have made more extensive technology upgrades as a long-term investment to livestream city meetings. These upgrades can ease public access to the livestream meetings but are not required.
Regardless of the technological approach, there are specific notice and broadcast requirements that a city must meet. Cities that wish to permanently transition to allow video teleconference meetings can meet the notice requirements in one of two ways. A city may amend the meeting ordinance or comply with the notice posting requirements.
A city’s meeting ordinance can be amended to reflect the video teleconference location and avoid the notice posting requirement. The video teleconference information provided in the ordinance must comply with the requirements of KRS 61.826 (2)(b-d). An obvious downside to this approach is that a city will have to amend its ordinance if it changes how the meeting can be viewed electronically.
Alternatively, a city may elect to follow the notice provisions to video teleconference a regular meeting for each meeting. A city must post a notice at the meeting location and deliver the notice to media that have requested to receive meeting notices in writing at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
The agenda must include a clear statement that the meeting will be video teleconferenced, specify how the public and media can hear and see the meeting electronically, provide the address of the primary physical meeting location where the public may attend, and provide the secondary address where the public may attend and all members can be seen and heard if two or more members of the public agency are attending from the same physical location. KRS 61.826 (2)(b-d).
A common question we hear is if relatives or friends who serve together on the same legislative body and wish to video teleconference from their home for the same meeting must comply with the physical location requirements. The answer is yes. If two or more members of the public agency video teleconference from the same physical location, that location must be opened to the public for attendance, and adequate facilities must be available for the full meeting to be viewed. There is no exception for a private home.
Under the Kentucky Open Meetings Act, any meeting that deviates from the date, time, and physical location of a regular meeting as established by city ordinance must be treated as a special meeting. KRS 61.820 and 61.823. Aside from the notice provisions, special meetings are characterized by a strict requirement that no topic may be discussed unless specifically listed as an item on the posted agenda.
KRS 61.826 (5) authorizes a public agency to change a regular meeting to a video teleconference meeting without strictly complying with the special meeting requirements if the meeting occurs on the same date and time as the originally scheduled meeting. This means a city can change a regular meeting to a video teleconference meeting, but the city is not limited to discussing items listed on the special meeting agenda. However, all of the notice provisions must still be met.