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Top 10 Tips for Virtual Brown Act Meetings 

by Allison Schutte

Published: July, 2020

Submission: July, 2020

 



In the Loop: With the Hanson Bridgett Government Group



COVID-19 has changed the way California public agencies conduct their Brown Act meetings, creating new challenges and opportunities. Utilizing their experience serving as general counsel to a number of public agencies, Hanson Bridgett attorneys Claire Collins and Allison Schutte created their Top 10 list of recommendations on how to conduct virtual "Brown Act" Board Meetings to guide any public agency.


1. Be Patient


Recognize the practical challenges we’re all facing – have patience for directors, staff, consultants and the public who want and have a right to meaningfully participate.


2. Evaluate Your Technology Options


Consider what level of tech you want – telephone is still fine! (or use a meeting platform to administer the meeting but require everyone to call-in). This may also change over time. Survey your board members, check your internet, board capabilities, audience.


3. Delegate Roles


Assign one person to serve as meeting host/administrator that is not the chair, and not the secretary who’s keeping roll and votes. This person can manage attendees, commenters, and the “mute” button.


4. Provide Instructions


Instructions about how to connect and comment should appear in the agenda and be orally announced.


5. Use a Script


A script will ensure you don’t forget a step, and will also facilitate the minutes.


6. Organize Public Comment


Use your meeting controls and technology options to implement reasonable timing and manner restrictions so that the public has an opportunity to comment on each agenda item, and on non-agendized matters.


7. Train and Practice


Provide training for directors, staff, and consultants. Don’t assume they’ve used the technology before. Dry-run the meeting with each board member and presenter and practice, practice, practice.


8. Expect Delays


Be ready for meetings to take longer than they might in person. Resolving connectivity issues, taking roll call votes, avoiding “talking over” each other, and organizing multiple public comments all take longer in a teleconference than in person.


9. Plan Closed Sessions Carefully

Consider how you will limit attendance, ensure no third party attendance, and report out. Ensure the public has an opportunity to comment before convening in closed session.


10. Have a Back-up Plan


What happens if the internet, the web platform, or electricity goes down?


 



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