October 1, 2021

Open Meetings and Open Records After House Joint Resolution 1

Legislators responded to the request for continued flexibility during the pandemic with the passage of House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1). HJR 1 extends the state of emergency, which leaves SB 150 in effect until January 15, 2022.

SB 150 from the 2020 Kentucky General Assembly temporarily loosens the administrative requirements of the Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act during the state of emergency. Public agencies can elect to maintain operations under the preexisting law or proceed under the authority of SB 150 as needed.

By now, most cities have conducted a video teleconference public meeting under the exceptions provided in SB 150. These exceptions allow a public agency to hold meetings solely by electronic means with no in-person component. Cities must do the following to use the video teleconference exceptions:

  • Notice the meeting as though it were a special meeting; 
  • Provide public access to the video teleconference by electronic means; and 
  • Ensure that all members of the legislative body, commission, or committee can be seen and heard throughout the public meeting.

Cities must meet all requirements in KRS 61.823 to notice a special meeting. The notice must be posted within 24-hours prior to the meeting at the normal meeting location, electronically distributed to members of the media that have requested receipt, provided to members of the legislative body, commission, or committee, and include the location of the meeting. Further, the notice must contain a clear statement that the meeting will be conducted by video teleconference and detail how the public can access the meeting.

Cities use a variety of methods to broadcast the meetings; social media pages, city websites, and public access television channels are the most common. Placement of a link to the web page or identification of the method by which the public can access the meeting is all that is required to fulfill the location requirement.

To constitute a video teleconference meeting under SB 150, at least one member of the legislative body, commission, or committee must appear by video. A meeting in which all members attend in person but the public is excluded is not a video teleconference meeting, even if the meeting is broadcast live to the public. Also, if a quorum of the legislative body, commission, or committee attends the public meeting in person, the media must be allowed to attend.

During the meeting, the video and audio must continue uninterrupted so that the public can see and hear the legislative body, commission, or committee members at all times. If the live video and/or audio broadcast is interrupted, the meeting must be paused, and no action taken until the live broadcast resumes.

Cities that lack the technological capacity and availability to conduct a meeting by video teleconference can conduct meetings by audio teleconference under SB 150. Audio teleconference meetings are noticed as special called meetings, similarly to video teleconference meetings above. However, the location of the meeting is the method by which the public can access the audio teleconference meeting to hear all members of the legislative body, commission, or committee. This is usually an audio teleconference phone number.

Regardless of whether a city conducts the meeting by video or audio teleconference, all other provisions of the Open Meetings Act apply. The city must record the minutes of every action taken. No person may be required to identify themselves as a condition for attendance, and there is no requirement to allow public comment.

SB 150 also temporarily amends the Open Records Act to allow cities to respond to requests for public records within ten calendar days and to delay on-site inspection of public records through January 15, 2021. Cities need to take note that the 10-day response time includes weekends and holidays in the count. Normally, public agencies have five business days to respond, but Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are not counted. Cities that delay on-site inspection of public records must ensure that the policy is applied equally to all valid requests to inspect records. No written policy is required, but implementation must be even-handed.

For questions on this or other legal matters, contact the KLC Department of Municipal Law at (800) 876-4552.