Kentucky cities exemplify innovation and adaptability as shown by the speed by which we were able to transition from traditional in-person meetings to video or audio conferences over the last several weeks.
Thankfully, the ability to once again meet in person, while still observing social distancing guidelines is now available. Governor Beshear issued Executive Order 2020-396 on May 15, 2020 which lifted the prior prohibition on in-person governmental services in Executive Order 2020-257 issued on March 25, 2020. However, these meetings will still be subject to the ten-person limitation on gatherings effective as of May 22, 2020 as announced by Governor Beshear on May 14, 2020. Should the numbers continue to track favorably during reopening, Kentucky is scheduled to expand to allow for meeting up to fifty people on June 29, so options for in-person meetings should greatly expand at that time.
We have already fielded some inquiries as to what this now means for our cities and we would like to provide some thoughts.
Even though our cities now CAN meet in person, each city will need to ask if they SHOULD. It is worth noting that the same allowances we have been using for video or audio conferencing remain in place and can still be used as the COVID-19 state of emergency is ongoing.
Many of our elected officials are in high-risk groups for COVID-19 infection. No elected official should ever be placed in a position where they feel they are placing their health and safety at risk by attending an in-person meeting. By the same token, no member of your community should feel they need to risk their health and safety by attending an in-person meeting to voice their concerns to their elected officials.
From a practical matter, ten people in a mayor-council city is not a lot of folks. You have the mayor and (in most cases) six council members. That is seven people in the room right off the bat. The city clerk and a representative from your local paper attend and suddenly you are up to nine people in the room.
An approach to consider might be to continue posting the meetings of your legislative body as you have been for video and audio conferencing. In depth guidance on video and audio conferencing requirements can be found on the KLC COVID-19 Resources page. Continued video or audio conference meetings would still allow the members of city government who are able to meet in person, to do so, while respecting the health and safety concerns of your other elected officials, non-elected officers, city employees, and citizens who feel safer attending remotely. This serves as a midpoint for our cities by taking steps towards “business as usual” while still recognizing the real risks presented by the virus.
KLC continues to be blown away by the ways our cities rise to tackle this ongoing crisis and we look forward to hearing the specific approaches your city takes to in-person meetings. Should you have any questions, please contact the KLC Municipal Law Department at 800.876.4552.