The past two years have seemingly stood for one general proposition, expect the unexpected. Given the recent rise in public participation at government meetings, the global pandemic, polarizing viewpoints, and the inevitable unexpected situations, municipalities should consider adopting formal bylaws and meeting procedures to govern the conduct of both the governing body and public participants at municipal meetings. Municipalities that have already adopted formal bylaws, procedures, rules and regulations should consider reviewing the documentation for necessary updates. In certain circumstances, such as varied meeting formats or remote participation, formal action may be required to continue allowing for remote participation or other desired meeting procedures.
In general, there is no prohibition for a municipality to adopt bylaws, procedures, rules and regulations necessary for conduct at meetings and the maintenance of order, as long as the intent of the Sunshine Act is not violated. As a reminder, the general intent of the Sunshine Act is to provide transparency in governmental decision making and to allow for public participation at meetings. Formal bylaws, procedures, rules and regulations must be adopted by official action, either by resolution or ordinance. This document could include sections on rules, conduct, decorum, time limits for public participation, participant removal and procedures for voting. The relevant municipal code can provide direction for sections that should be included, such as meeting participation, quorums and organizational requirements.
Beyond the guidelines that the municipal code and Sunshine Act provide, each municipality can tailor the bylaws, procedures, rules and regulations to fit its unique needs. Formal bylaws, procedures, rules and regulations should be proactively adopted before meeting conduct issues arise. Otherwise, the governing body may be placed in a situation of taking action in the heat of the moment and may unintentionally set an unwanted precedent for handling
similar conduct at future meetings.
For more information or to begin the process of adopting formal bylaws and meeting procedures, contact Attorney Beth Kern or the CGA attorney serving as your municipal solicitor.
Beth J. Kern
Beth J. Kern provides legal services to Municipal, Business, Litigation, and Employment Law clients. Beth has over twelve years of professional experience. Beth uses her business acumen and experience in human resource management to gain insight into partnering with leaders and teams to develop organization strategies. She knows that the most successful solutions are developed in partnership with the people within an organization and she loves helping clients achieve their goals. In 2020, Beth completed her Juris Doctorate from Widener University Commonwealth Law School.
Read Beth’s Bio Page in full HERE.