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Legal Considerations: Open Meetings

​​As with any legal issue, we encourage cities and towns to consult directly with their staff and/or contracted municipal attorneys. The UNC SOG also provides updates on their Coates' Cannons blog​

​MARCH 26 UPDATE: Guidance on Open Meetings from the State Attorney General's Office

Frequently Asked Questions

Can local governments carry out their necessary meetings via electronic means during these exigent circumstances? 

The following answer comes directly from the Office of N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein: 

"Yes, because electronic meetings are allowed under N.C.G.S. §143.318.13, and the requirements of notice, access and minutes can be met through electronic means.  Due to the unprecedented circumstances we are all faced with, and the fact that local governing bodies conducting meetings remotely is not expressly prohibited by statute, I conclude that local governments can carry out necessary meetings electronically and remain in compliance with Open Meetings Laws." 

Read additional considerations to this answer.

Can our governing board hold an emergency meeting without notifying the public?

​No.  Meetings of public bodies must be properly noticed and open to the public.  ​

​We plan to hold a council meeting to discuss COVID-19. If nobody from the public shows up at our meeting, is it a legal meeting?

Yes.  If the meeting is properly noticed and is open to the public and a quorum of board members is present, then it is a legal meeting.  There is no requirement that someone from the public actually show up.

As a board, we've thought about discussing our plans of action over email​. Is this okay? 

If a quorum of board members discuss city business over email, it would be an illegal meeting. Why? Because it was not properly noticed and because the public cannot fully attend in the same way they could if the quorum met in council chambers.

What if one council member discusses issues with one other council member over email?

A single email between just two council members is not considered a public meeting, but, remember, their emails are public record.​

So can a council member send out an email that CCs the rest of the council? Is that illegal?

An email sent OUT to all board members is a public record but it is not transformed into an illegal public meeting unless someone hits the "reply all" button, which means everyone on the email thread is now conducting city business vial email instead of through a properly noticed public meeting.