Public Access to City of Salem Public Meetings During COVID-19 Outbreak

Measures include temporary expansion of remote participation options.
remote participation for City meetings

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, Governor Baker issued an emergency Order on March 12, 2020, allowing public bodies greater flexibility in utilizing technology in the conduct of meetings under the Open Meeting Law.

The City of Salem greatly values the participation of its residents in the public meeting process, but given the current circumstances and recommendations at both the state and federal levels to limit or avoid public gatherings, including Governor Baker’s ban on gatherings of more than 25 people and the President’s directive discouraging gatherings of more than 10 people, together with the present closure of City Hall and other public buildings to the public, the City has decided to implement the remote participation procedures allowed under Governor Baker’s emergency Order for all boards, committees, and commissions. 

1. All or any of the members of the public body may choose to participate in a public meeting via remote access. Meetings will be virtual, in their entirety.

2. Physical presence at public meetings will not be permitted during the emergency.

3. The public will be provided with alternative access through which they can watch or listen to meetings in real time, and meeting notices will specify the manner in which members of the public may access audio or video of the meeting as it is occurring.

4. If, despite our best efforts, our technological capabilities do not adequately support public access to virtual or remote meetings, the City will ensure that an audio or video recording, transcript, or other comprehensive record of the proceedings at the meeting is posted on the City’s website as soon as possible after the meeting.

5. Notices for public hearings will contain additional information about how the public may participate via electronic/technological means.

6. For executive session meetings, public access to the meeting will be limited to the open session portion(s) of the meeting only. Public access to any audio, video, internet or web-based broadcast of the meeting will be discontinued when the public body enters executive session.

7. Where individuals have a right, or are required, to attend a public meeting or hearing, including executive session meetings, they will be provided with information about how to participate in the meeting/hearing remotely.

8. Meeting notices will still be posted at least 48 hours in advance (not counting Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays), unless it is an emergency meeting as defined under the Open Meeting Law (in which event, the meeting notice will be posted with as much advanced notice as is possible in the circumstances). Minutes will still be taken. Meeting notices will include the method by which the public may participate in the remote meeting, as well as links to any presentations or materials that would normally be publicly available for the meeting attendees to view.

This policy will be in effect for the duration of this public health emergency. When the policy ends, a public announcement to that effect will be posted at www.salem.com/news. Members of the public with additional questions about this policy are encouraged to contact the City of Salem’s Legal Department at (978) 619-5638.